Monthly Archives: June 2015

Double Chocolate Brownies – A Naughty Treat!

These are a super naughty yet delicious treat. They are one of my favourites and go down a storm with friends and family. They are easily adaptable and versatile and I have taken variations of these to work at least every other week. Needless to say, none ever made it home with me!

The double chocolate brownies take about 10 minutes to mix and around 25-30 minutes to cook (180°C) 

 
Ingredients:

  • 115g butter (you will need extra to grease the tin)
  • 115g chocolate broken into pieces (you can pick white, milk or dark, depending on how you’re feeling!) 
  •  300g caster sugar (I did say these were naughty!) 
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 140g plain flour
  • 2tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips (again you can pick but I stick with milk.)

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the cocoa powder. Cream the eggs, vanilla and sugar together and mix with the flour and cocoa. Add the butter. Mix until smooth. 

Over a pan, melt the chocolate that you have broken into pieces (115g). Once runny and delicious add to the mixture. 

Pour half the mixture into a baking tin. I use a square silicone (7inch) one as it doesn’t stick. Spread evenly to cover the bottom on your chosen tin. Spread the chocolate chips and cover with the remaining mixture. By having the chocolate chips in the middle, it means the brownie will come out with gooey chocolatey bits in the middle. YUM. 

Bake until the top starts to crack, checking the mixture is cooked throughout. Make sure you leave to cool. (I know how difficult this is!) I like to use my love heart cookie cutter for this to make it more fun. Finish off with a sprinkling of icing sugar. 

Like I said, you could vary this up by adding white chocolate, dried fruits or even nuts. Walnuts are a particular favourite of mine. 

Enjoy! 

BL x

2 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods

Would You Rather – Book Tag

Another tag! I feel lucky. Thanks to the lovely Amy for tagging me.

Let’s get on with the tag then…

Would you rather only read trilogies or standalones?

I quite like standalone, but if they’ve been a really gripping read then I would be disappointed when it ends. Tough one. The problem I have with trilogies is I forget what’s happened and then get confused! 

Would you rather only read male or female authors?

Well for my Masters I studied male writers of the Victorian period which was really interesting. I don’t really have a preference. There are some fabulous make and female writers out there. I like both. 

Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

I’ve no idea what Barnes and Noble is, but I’m assuming it’s a book shop. If so, I’m sure I would like it. I’ve never bought a book from Amazon. I prefer actually going to a shop and choosing a book that catches my eye from there. There are some gorgeous book shops in Hay-On-Wye. It’s why it’s one of my favourite places. I’m old school. 

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

Hmmmm I have a real problem with this because I don’t really know how I feel about books being made into films or TVs. I think this is because sometimes some of the magic is lost and there is usually a huge amount of editing where good parts are also cut. Hmmm. I guess films. Harry Potter was pretty amazing. 

Would you rather read only 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

Without a doubt, 5 books a week. Sadly I don’t get time to do this!! 

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?

I think I’m fairly average at both so I’m not really bothered. I do enjoy reviewing. I’m relatively new at it but I’m really enjoying doing that on my wordpress site. Whether people like reading it is another matter! Haha. 

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

Bookseller! I would have a little book shop with a bakery inside so people could come in and eat some lovely baked treats as well as picking up a good read. My idea of heaven. It’s my dream to do this when I win the lottery, or when I retire. 

Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favourite?
Every genre. If not, I would get very bored and stuck in a rut. There’s always a good read to find, regardless of favourite genres. Also, if you just read your favourite it would soon before a genre you hate. A balance is always perfect. 

Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?
Read, physical books for me please. I love the feel, the smell and just seeing how much you’ve physically read as well. Ebooks are amazing for if you are travelling and have limited space, but it’s really not for me. Also, if you only have ebooks then you run the risk of losing that moment when you stumble across an amazing book. You really can’t beat finding a little gem in a book shop somewhere. 

I tag: anyone that wishes to do this! It’s been good fun. Thanks again 🙂 

Big love x

Leave a comment

Filed under Nomination

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? – Horace McCoy 

  

I first read this story when I was at university studying an American Fiction of the 1930s module. It shocked me to the core. It still does today. It is a snapshot into life in America during the Great Depression when people were desperate to make it to the big screen, to Hollywood. It’s a tragic, realistic story. 

The narrator, Robert Syverten is a naive, young man from Hollywood who dreams of being a film director. The story opens with his sentencing for murder. The girl in question is called Gloria Beatty, quite possibly one of the more depressing and depressed characters I’ve ever come across. She repeats throughout how she wishes she was dead. This story of how he knows her is intercut after every chapter with short comments from the judge. The font gets larger as the story progresses. It ends with “May God have mercy on your soul.”

Robert meets Gloria when they both have failed to become extras for Central. (The only way to be on the big screen.) She persuades him into taking part in a marathon dance contest. She is adamant that this is the way to be noticed by studio producers and movie stars. 

Robert meets Gloria on a morning when they have both failed to get parts as extras, with each feeling bitter. ‘Let’s go and sit and hate a bunch of people.’ Like Robert, she is struggling to find work in Hollywood. Gloria and Robert enter the dance contest, which is held at a large amusement pier on the beach, somewhere near Hollywood. Naively they enter thinking they could win and really make it. 

Gloria has every reason to be repetitive in her wishes to die. Her parents are dead, she ran away from a farm in Dallas where her uncle regularly made passes at her, she tried to commit suicide, failed, then ran away to Hollywood. She’s not a beautiful character, being described as plain looking and unlikely to ever find work as an actress. She tells Robert that she does not have the courage to kill herself. “It’s perculiar to me that everyone pays so much attention to living and so little to dying. Why are these high-powered scientists always screwing around trying to prolong life instead of finding pleasant ways to end it?” 

The promotors are desperate to increase attendance at the contest, as this will help make them money. They publicise the arrest of a contestant for murder, stage elimination races every evening and a even a marriage. However the couple due to be married should have been eliminated, but it’s fixed so they don’t. 

Two and three weeks pass and the crowds increase as newspapers cover the contest. Some couples receive sponsorships from local businesses, giving them new clothes and shoes. We are introduced to a lady called Mrs Layden. She attends every evening to watch her favourite couple, Robert and Gloria. She also gets them a sponsorship from a local business. However, she doesn’t have a good impression of Gloria, saying “She’s an evil person and she’ll wreck your life.”

The number of couples that break down physically and drop out increase. The crowd cheers and takes a sharp intake of breath whenever someone falls or trips in the race. Robert is consumed with claustrophobia and repeats his desire to be outside and to see the sun. Gloria too is starting to show signs of struggling. There are a couple of occasions where they narrowly miss out on being disqualified. Robert starts to tire of how bitter Gloria is, saying “Sometimes I’m sorry I ever met you. I don’t like to say a thing like that, but it’s the true. Before I met you I didn’t know what it was to be around gloomy people.”

After 879 hours of dancing, with 20 couples left, the contest is shut down when there is a murder in the dance hall’s bar. Unfortunately, a stray bullet from the shooting hits and kills Mrs Layden. The promotors decide to end the competition and give each dancer left $50 for their efforts. It is believed they would have been closed down anyway, after opposition arriving before. 

Robert and Gloria go outside for the first time in five weeks and sit looking out at the ocean. Gloria takes out a pistol and asks Robert to shoot her. He does. There doesn’t seem to be much a fight or moral dilemma regarding this choice. He reverts back to a memory of when his grandfather shot his beloved horse after she broke her leg. The police push Robert to answer why he shot Gloria. The fact that she asked him to caused them to mock him. “They shoot horses, don’t they?”

American readers of the 1930s were not impressed with this book one bit. Sales were low. It was, however, read in the existentialist circles of France. McCoy’s story here was one of many to be published during this time showing the Great Depression and its effect on people at that time. 

It’s a grim and gory tale, yet it’s one that is physically impossible to put down. It  is short yet packed with drama, tragedy and desperation. A must read for anyone interested in American and/or Existentilist literature. 

BL x

Leave a comment

Filed under American Literature, Book review, Existentialist Literature

West End News – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

It’s been 18 years (wow!) since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the UK. A lot has happened in this time: 7 novels, 8 films, Platform 9 3/4s opened in London with the trolley in the wall and the Studio Tour just to name a few. 

Therefore, I could not be more excited when I stumbled across this Harry Potter news this morning. I felt like I had ants in my pants. I just couldn’t keep still. Awkward when you’re at work! Cue some funny looks…

What’s caused all reaction? I kind of gave it away in the title… So, it has been announced that Harry Potter will be hitting the Palace Theatre in London’s West End in 2016. J.K. Rowling has teamed up with playwrite Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany to give devoted fans another slice of the Harry Potter action. 

It’s still very much hush hush about the details, but we know it contains untold stories of Harry’s history. Rumours of a prequel have been floating around for months. However, I don’t think anyone expected a play. I certainly didn’t. Rowling always has this air of mystery around her. Are the rumours correct? A prequel implies stories about Hary’s parents. Or, could the rumours be wrong and include parts about Harry’s life after the final novel left it? I doubt that, it seemed a pretty neat, tied up ending to me. There is something about imagining an old man Harry Potter though. 

Tickets go on sale this autumn (seriously why such a long wait?), with more updates on their website coming soon. I’ve already saved it to my favourites with the plan to check daily. http://www.harrypottertheplaylondon.com 

I feel lucky to have grown up with Harry. I was one of those kids who queued at midnight for the latest book, went home and read it so that when I got to school no one could ruin it for me. This is am proud of. What a revolution. I can’t wait to find out more about this play. Moreover, I can’t wait to go and see it! 

  
BL xx

Leave a comment

Filed under Harry Potter, London

Class of 2015 – Goodbye To A Group That Changed My Life. 

I’ll apologise now because this isn’t the type of post I would usually write. It’s not about books or bakes! I’ve been thinking and working on this post for a few a days now, yet I can’t seem to formulate it. I know what I think and feel, but it’s like I’ve lost the ability to spill the words out over the page. In fact, I feel like I’m constantly tripping over the words I’m desperately trying to find or use. I’ll do my best. Hold onto your hats, this one is emotional! 

I started teaching back in 2012, being thrown right in at the deep end and training on the job. My first class were a top set year 9; very bright and able, eager to do well, desperate to achieve their potential and then some. I was terrified. What if they were smarter than me? What if they asked me something I couldn’t answer? Or worse, what if they didn’t like me? 

I remember my first ever lesson. I was teaching Gothic Literature and exploring the Victorian period. Three years later, they are the top set GCSE group. I remember our last lesson, analysing and comparing the language used by Sherlock Holmes and Watson. We worked our socks off to turn D grades into A*s, to make U grades into C grades. Every child in that class should pass at C or above. Without a doubt they deserve it. Something was happening before my very eyes. They were maturing, growing and glowing in their intelligence. I feel so lucky to have seen them progress over the three years. 

But it’s more than this. They made the teacher I am today. My feedback from observations and marking was always outstanding. I am not big headed or arrogant enough to think I’m the best at this job or the most amazing teacher. Of course I’m not! There are people out there who are more intelligent, more inspirational and more experienced than me. But, I owe this group a lot. They kept me on my toes, they constantly questioned and analysed, they demanded their books were marked every week so they could improve their skills. And yet, I can honestly say they made me a better person as well as a better teacher. 

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine. They were challenging in their own way. Laziness was their biggest problem. The ‘I’m smart so can pull it off in the real exam miss’ line was well quoted, whilst I was stressing about this weeks book trawl or mock exam results. 

At the end of the day, I do this job because I want to make a difference. I want to give children the best possible start in life. It’s a big scary world out there! (Not the most ambitious vocabulary used by an English teacher!) They need to be prepared for it. Surely that’s why we all become teachers? We want to inspire, to change lives, to give them the skills for real life. 

So, whilst I’m very excited about moving to a new school with new challenges, I will always remember that group. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget them. It’s like your first house or your first love. Whatever happened, you never forget it. I like to think I made a difference – just a small difference to some of their lives. By the amount of tears and thank yous on the last day, I have a small feeling that I did something right. 

  

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

The Liebster Award

My first nomination! How exciting. I’m still learning and mooching around at the blogs so I really appreciate that someone has thought of me for this award. Thank you to the lovely Amy @ Curiouser and Curiouser for nominating me for the The Liebster Award! 

  
This award looks fun because it gives you an opportunity to find new blogs, promote your favourite blogs, and find out a little bit more about the people you follow. There are a few rules though:
Each nominee must have under 200 followers

Thank and link to the nominated blog

Answer their 10 questions and propose 10 new ones for your nominees

Nominate 10 blogs and tell them that they have been nominated

Write a post containing the questions

Include these rules in the post
So here are the 10 questions that Curiouser and Curiouser has provided:

What is your all time favourite book? Why?

Oh my days so difficult! The Great Gatsby is a great book and one I love. To Kill A Mockingbird moves me so much. I grew up with The Harry Potter series. Ahhhh!! Any if the above. And probably more. 

Do you like cooking/baking? If so, what’s your favourite thing to cook/bake?

I absolutely love baking! My favourite is a chocolate brownie. I’m really naughty and put a bar of chocolate in the middle so when it’s baked, it’s still gooey in the middle. Delicious! 

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

I’m learning so much! I enjoy reading other people’s blogs. There’s some amazing blogs out there. 

If you could travel to one country in the world, where would it be and why?

Italy. I would probably eat all day every day. It’s on my list of countries that I would love to visit and experience their culture. I could try and find myself an Italian boyfriend? Haha. 

Do you like Young Adult novels?

I do, but I’ve not read too much in this area. It seems to be ever changing! I guess I should pay more attention so I can keep up with the students are school. 

What is your favourite genre of music? Why?

I’ve just checked my iPhone for this. I have a bit of everything on there from pop to rock to indie to soul to jazz. So I don’t think I have one. The genre I hear the most is pop because of the radio! 

If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?

Only 5? My teddy bear, a photo of my close family and 3books. That decision would be difficult. 

If you could meet any author who would it be? Why?

I met Jacqueline Wilson as a kid and she was so lovely. I’d love to met J K Rowling or Oscar Wilde. (Yes, I realise the latter isn’t possible!) 

What languages do you speak? Are there any that you want to learn?

I know a bit of German and a handful of Greek words. I know the swear words in Polish thanks to some lovely students at my old school. I’d love to learn Greek properly or French. 

Which book character do you most identify with?

Hmm I’m not too sure. Hermoine Granger? (I wish!) this is the most difficult question – I’ve no idea. 

My questions are:

  1. What are the three best books you have read this year? (So far) 
  2. What is your favourite meal and why?
  3. Where was the last place you visited in the world?
  4. What is your favourite book?
  5. Prose or poetry or drama?
  6. If you were in a book, who would be your best friend?
  7. Name one thing you’d like to do before you’re 70.
  8. What is your biggest dream?
  9. What is your favourite genre of writing?
  10. You write a novel based on your life. What is it called?

Enjoy answering these! It’s actually harder than it seems! 

Nominations: (I have no idea if you guys have less than 200 followers or if you’ve been tagged for this before, but I wanted to tag you all anyway!)

Steph @ Words Are My Craft

Karen @ Simple Life Happy Thoughts

Erika @ Erika in Bookventureland

The Literary Counsellor @ The Literary Counsellor

Sam @ Between The Blurb

And anyone else who feels like they want to do this! 

Big love x

7 Comments

Filed under Book review

Huffkins – Stratford upon Avon

Something very exciting has happened in my glorious hometown of Stratford. Could it get any better? Well, yes, it seems it can. That’s right, a lovely Huffkins bakery and tea room has opened right in the centre of town on Bridge Street. There was no way I was missing out on experiencing this! 

  

 

It has been stunningly decorated, with the original brick being showcased and the food just looks so tempting and enticing. 

  
  

I couldn’t take my eyes off these amazing cakes. All of which are baked upstairs in the morning. Very impressive! I got there around lunch time and it was really busy and lots of cakes had already been devoured. 

   
I took my Momma and we had lunch. We had a chicken and bacon sandwich which was really tasty. Then we decided to have cakes (naturally). She had a lovely chocolate eclair and I had a strawberry tart. It was quite possibly the yummiest tart I’ve had for a while. Delicious! I didn’t even see the chocolate eclair so I gather my mum thoroughly enjoyed it! 
  

    

Check out their website http://www.huffkins.com for some super duper products. There’s also other tearooms as well as the new Stratford one that are well worth a visit. 

I was so impressed. I absolutely loved it. Make sure you visit if you’re in the area. I will be going back again and again. 

Lots of cake love x

Leave a comment

Filed under Baked Goods, Tearoom