Posted by: annmucc | May 8, 2011

A Bike Ride to Windsor

In April, when I was away from London for a weekend, Michael finally got round to joining the Brent Cyclists for a bike ride to Elstree and Stanmore. This weekend then there was a bike ride to Windsor planned and he was keen to join again. Now, Windsor has been on my to-do list for a while, so (for some crazy reason) I decided to join in! I made sure that there were enough places where I could decide to stop and get a train back to London, and also that there are no significant hills, and this morning saw Michael, Chris (a friend from Cycletastic) and I meet at Willesden Green and make our way to North Harrow.

We were 12 people meeting at North Harrow: 10 guys and two girls. From first impressions it seemed like I would be the least experience cyclist. This was as I expected of course. However, Michael had convinced me that the pace would be quite leisurely, and that I would still fit into the ‘bell-curve of experience and fitness’ of the group (albeit at the lower ends).

From North Harrow we left at around 11:00am, making our way first to Uxbridge, where we had the first stop. So far so good! The scenery was quite decent, I was keeping up with the others quite well, and I was enjoying it. This was one of the major points where I could get off the main route, but as my body was still not complaining much I decided to go on. I was surprised at as we had already cycled around 11.2km! I was told that we were half-way there, so it sounded positive for the trip. I was also doing well with the new cycling experiences such as passing through the numerous gates in the way, cycling onto and off pavements, and most importantly, cycling in a group (though cycling and talking is still a bit beyond me).

The next half was the way from Uxbridge, out of London, through Slough and then on to Windsor. First half went well, but this second half? Hmm! I guess by now I was getting tired. Also, the terrain kept on going from dirt tracks in forests/parks which sap out your energy, to quite major roads which sap out my energy as I need to go fast. And remember what I said that we should have been half-way? Let’s just say it doesn’t seem like that to me! It took us around 1hr 15mins to get to Uxbridge, and another 2hrs or more to get to Windsor!

Finally though, we saw Windsor Castle! We were still a way away (around 30mins), but at least the end was literally in sight. So I pushed myself that bit more, and weaved my way through the streets, till I got there (much more exhausted than the others it seems!). Sitting down in the pub with a beer (yes! Me! A beer! I finally understood how nice it can be!) and a Sunday roast was bliss!

Following a rest in the pub, the plan was that we all cycle back, at least to Uxbridge. However, by now I was completely shattered and didn’t think that it was good to keep pushing myself, while at the same time keeping the others back. So I said my goodbyes, and jumped on a train back. You might think that that was copping out. However, having cycled 32km, I definitely don’t think so!

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Posted by: annmucc | May 2, 2011

Ireland Trip with the Fenechs

At this moment in time, every member of my immediate family lives in a different country, so when coming up to decide plans for meeting up for Easter we though “Why limit ourselves to Malta, when we also have Finland, Ireland and the UK to choose from (amongst others?”.

The choice fell on Ireland – the West coast of Ireland to be more precise. So all of us + significant others (that made 7 in total) descended on Ireland towards the end of April. My sister has already written about all that we did on her blog, so I won’t bore you with all the details of what we did when. But what about my impressions of the trip?

The trip had started out as an idea I had late last year. I though it would be nice that rather than always descending on Malta, where all of us are pulled here and there with meeting people and catching up with stuff, we could actually spend some time doing something together. And where better to do that than when you’re in a foreign country living in the same places in the countryside, with one car to take you places?

Choosing Ireland was quite a risky choice. After all, you don’t know what weather you will get. We were however lucky enough to get very decent weather most of the days, with only one day of grey and rain. This meant that we could really enjoy the Irish countryside, in all its green glory, together with spots of white lambs, sheep and cows, as well as black doughnuts on the roads (i.e. people who try to do 360degree turns on the road for the fun of it on very narrow roads – are the Irish suicidal or what!?!). However, I must admit that after seeing green hills and sheep for a few days, the ‘ooh’ factor is lost!

Prior to the trip I was quite sceptical of how it would all turn out. My family is one of opinionated people, who are not afraid to use their voice (as is typical of most Maltese). I was a bit scared of what a week with my family would do to Michael, the reserved the Dane (aka my boyfriend), most of all :P. However, now that we are out at the other end, I’m quite impressed I must say! We are all still alive and decisions were made quite easily. Thanks you guys :D.

I hope this is the first of a number of family trips to come – we don’t see each other that often anyways. Next family meetup will be my brother’s wedding in Finland though – looking forward to that!

Posted by: annmucc | April 6, 2011

Mission Healthy Eating Continues

Remember my mission to healthy eating a few months back? I haven’t written about it recently, but not because I have abandoned it! I am not as zealous in following it as I was, but if I am eating at home I do try to cook a healthy option. The recipes we are cooking mostly lately are the soups from that list. However, these last few days we have trialled two other recipes not from the previous list that I think are worthy of a mention.

Salmon and Spinach

When I lived in Malta, salmon was about the only fish my sister would eat, so it was the most common fish we ate. When I moved to London, my relationship with salmon mainly descended to using the cheap salmon trimmings from Sainsbury’s, but it was still salmon. The spinach though? I had never cooked spinach before I came across this recipe I think! The combination is great though. I don’t generally make the tartare sauce, and just add some capers and the last time some Finnish mustard my brother gave me. The simplicity of the flavours marry so well together that we have already made this recipe twice within two weeks. A quick, easy and above all healthy recipe.

Italian Chicken and Rosemary Stew

This is a recipe which has been in my BBC Good Food recipe binder for quite a while. Mainly because I don’t have spelt at home, and it takes quite a long time to cook, I have never gotten round to making it. Yesterday however I worked from home, so decided to give it a go.

Though the cooking time stated is 1hr 20mins, 1hour of that involves the pot happily bubbling away in the oven with very little if any effort on your part. So though it takes quite a long time to be done, most of that time you can be busy doing other things. I still didn’t have spelt, so I substituted it with around a tablespoon of rice, which mopped up most of the liquid beautifully, while leaving the food moist.

The recipe is definitely a keeper! I really liked the flavours. At first I was worried it was going to be quite bland, but once the aromas starting coming out of the oven, I knew I was not going to be disappointed, and once I tasted the outcome, any concerns flew out of the window.

So that’s two new recipes for you to add to your repertoire if you’re interested! The healthy eating is having it’s effect now, which is great. So I hope I can stick with it for longer. So far it hasn’t been too tough, as making good healthy choices I don’t feel like I am depriving myself. *yeay*.

Posted by: annmucc | April 5, 2011

Food for Thought – Willesden Green

As I generally go in to university every day, I don’t tend to look for lunch places in Willesden Green (where I live). However, today I decided to stay home as I needed to get some work done for which I needed some peace and quiet. When lunch time came around, my boyfriend Michael suggested we go out to grab something. As he’s the one who generally has lunch in the area, I asked him to suggest a place. His choice fell on ‘Food for Thought‘, a place he’s been to twice before.

I don’t normally expect much from lunch in London. A sandwich with a filling just thrown in is just about as good as it gets. So my expectations weren’t particularly high. On entering the cafe/deli, 5 of the 8 tables were already occupied, so we chose a table in the middle of the seating area, from where I could happily look around. There were two ladies sitting chatting next to the window, while the others were 4 single men on individual tables: one quietly eating his salad and reading his newspaper, another younger guy reading his Kindle as he eats, and the other two at the end close to the counter busily and happily talking to the guy behind the sandwich bar.

The place is not that big, but the table arrangements is such that there is more than enough space to sit comfortably. The place is also light and airy, as it has a glass front which allows the sun in, while the inside is painted in bright and cheery colours. The happy chatter of the people around us, and the calm collectedness of the two people reading also helped make the place feel a comfy welcoming place.

But of course, the reputation of such a place can only rely on the food it offers, and not on the chance present of individual people. So what to choose? Hmm. Both Michael and I opted for a sandwich: salami and salad sandwich for Michael, and Mediterranean vegetable sandwich for me.

On seeing my sandwich I was immediately impressed. There was nothing pretentious about it – a good solid sandwich with a good amount of filling and bright and vibrant colours. On biting in I wasn’t disappointed! The vegetables were most definitely fresh! Growing up in Malta I was used to excellent fresh produce as a daily occurrence. Unfortunately, I don’t get as much of that now that I am in London, so I definitely appreciated this feeling of a hearty sandwich with reminded me of home.

My verdict? Definitely one to check out! I think for the freshness and overall taste of that sandwich I would probably make the effort to go a bit out of my way to get my lunch there. If I am in the area, I would definitely suggest it! The service was courteous, prompt, and efficient, and the food quality was top-notch. So kudos to you ‘Food for Thought’. You are definitely succeeding in your goal “to provide our customers with excellent personal service, using the best ingredients and innovative quality food”.

 

Posted by: annmucc | April 4, 2011

Scandinavian Kitchen Delights

Since Michael moved to London (him being Danish and all) I have visited the good folk at Scandinavian kitchen a couple of times, be it because we decide to meet there for lunch or dinner, or because Michael sends me to pick up something Danish for him (generally Spunk!). So when Michael told me about a bloggers night at their cafe, I was obviously excited. I was lucky enough that they allowed me to wiggle my way in! Yeay them!

Having visited Denmark a couple of times now, and Finland recently, I have by now tasted quite a bit of Scandinavian (Finland can fall under this title for this purpose!) food by now. So when I arrived and saw the food laid out, I was happy to spot a couple of old friends, particularly the herring – prepared in two ways! There were however a couple of items which I have never come across before (remember – I have never been to Norway!).I was excited to get introduced to all this good food by the owners of Scandinavian Kitchen, Bronte and Jonas, who explained to us what all the food laid out in front of us was. They also treated us to some gorgeous caviar – super nomnom!

In particular though there is one thing I will definitely remember – and that is the Norwegian brown cheese that ‘with knife and fork‘ introduced me to. As she warned me before I tasted it, it is sweet, but in such a cheesy way I would say! I was told that people either love it or hate it. I definitely fell into the ‘love’ category, as did the people there I then evangelised to trying.

It was an evening of great food, and good fun talking to the food bloggers around. So thank you Scandinavian Kitchen. I’ll definitely be back!

 

Posted by: annmucc | April 3, 2011

A Saturday in Richmond

I have been meaning to visit Richmond for quite a while. However, for some reason or another (including that I have been hoping for good weather for the visit), I hadn’t gotten round to visiting as yet. So when this week I decided to try to organise something with my uni friends/colleagues, my decision easily fell on Richmond.

This being quite a last minute thing, there were just two of us from the office. However, Orkida joined us, as did friends of my colleague. So the group was quite a nice size

The plan for visiting Richmond was that we visit the Farmer’s market there, then make our way along the river to Richmond park. Alas, we didn’t get round to finding the farmer’s market, but did tick the boxes of the other two items.

The walk along the river, even in the quite cloudy weather that we ended up having (the sun did peak at times, but not enough for us!), was great! It really made me promise myself that Michael and I should return someday the weather is great for a cycle along it. That should be a definite must for us!

From the Thames we then walked up towards Richmond Park. The climb, though short, was quite steep. However, the views from the top were definitely worth it (and gave us all an excuse to stop and take a breather ;)).

We spent a couple of hours walking and talking in Richmond park. It was great being with people, just enjoying each other’s company and our environment. I think this is something which I find lacking quite a bit from my life in London: having people to do things with outside of university. Maybe I should get round to inviting people to stuff like this myself, rather than hoping that someone else will invite me? From yesterday’s experience, maybe I should!

Posted by: annmucc | March 28, 2011

Billy Elliot @ Victoria Palace Theatre

My friend Dorothy, who was in London for 5 weeks, is a big theatre fan. In total during her time here she made it to 5 or 6 musicals. Unfortunately my budget is not that generous. But we did go to watch Billy Elliot a few days after her birthday in celebration!

The plot (if you haven’t watched the film) is of a young boy, Billie, growing up in Yorkshire during the violent 1984 miners’ strikes.  He goes to boxing classes, but is less than enthusiastic about them. One day however he dawdles after class, and from then on he ends up in the ballet class that follows. The teacher spots his talent and encourages him to try out for the Royal Ballet School. However, when his family gets to know they are less than enthusiastic. It is only after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing that they finally get turned round to support Billie in going for the audition.

As can be expected, there is quite a bit of dancing going on. I wouldn’t say that it was all remarkable, but there were some very good bits. The singing, on the other hand, I found a bit shaky, particularly for some of the adults doing solos. I didn’t feel the voices were as strong as in other shows I have seen, often wavering and fading in a shaky way. The acting though was good, and they successfully managed to bring the story across.

This hasn’t been my favourite musical I must admit. I had high hopes for it as I had heard from quite a number of people that it is really good. Maybe it was the night we went on, but there wasn’t anything too memorable. Would I suggest it? Sure. It’s a decent show, but nothing too exciting I found. So an OK show. Glad I saw it, but won’t see it again probably.

Posted by: annmucc | March 27, 2011

Weekend in Denmark

It’s a week late, but finally it’s here.

Michael’s parents gave Michael and his sister a weekend in a ‘summer house’ as a Christmas gift. That weekend trip happened last weekend. We spent it in a gorgeous farmhouse in Ballum, Denmark.

So what did we do over the weekend? We ate, we played board games, we drove and walked in the land around the place, but above all we enjoyed each other’s company. It was great to see Michael’s dad saying words in English to me (he doesn’t speak English, but is starting feeling comfortable enough to say individual words), and Michael’s nephew Magnus willing to play with me and interact with me and seemingly enjoy it.

I was a bit worried of a weekend in Denmark with a lot of Danish, but besides the walks in the cold (which I still am a bit confused about the purpose of), it turned out really well – even if I didn’t see ‘sort sol‘ (black sun) which we went on the hunt for.

Posted by: annmucc | March 26, 2011

LAMDA at the Tricycle Theatre

The Tricycle is a small independent theatre/cinema complex in Kilburn. Though it is less than a 30min walk from our place, and it has been on our radar for months, we hadn’t actually made it there for a show…until yesterday!

Over the past week, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) have been holding their final year shows at the Tricycle. We looked at shows and our availabilities and managed to get tickets for ‘A Woman of No Importance‘ by Oscar Wilde.

Now, I hope you will excuse my ignorance, but I have never read or seen any of Oscar Wilde’s work. This meant that I approached the performance with no expectations whatsoever.

The result? A brilliant performance! I have now read some criticism that this is not the best of Oscar Wilde’s work, but I wouldn’t have known it from what I saw yesterday! The actors were utterly amazing! Now, I am not normally the biggest fan of theatre productions. They generally feel dragging to me. But certainly not this one!

Seeing this (what I expect to be) just emerging actors and actresses on the stage made me feel that maybe, I shouldn’t keep theatre productions on the fringe of my interests, but rather maybe I should just see more, understand what I like more, research performances before we go, and then go from there.

So thanks guys for igniting an interest in theatre for me. In fact, I am now trying to get tickets for Touched on Tuesday. And this time, it is not Michael dragging me there, but me dragging him! Can’t wait 🙂

Posted by: annmucc | March 19, 2011

Kurt Elling @ Barbican

Thanks to the freeb scheme, this week we got to see some jazz at the Barbican. This time, Dorothy G., the friend who is currently visiting us in London, could not get tickets for this, so it was just Michael and I. I was thinking of saying unfortunately at the beginning, but considering Dorothy’s ‘curse‘, I decided to leave it out :D.

I was quite excited about this as while in Prague Michael always was keen on going to see some jazz (though we never made it). Then last time I got tickets to a jazz event at the Barbican, Michael opted out so I took a colleague. This time though, we were finally going to see some jazz together!

Kurt Elling is “an American jazz vocalist, composer, lyricist and vocalese performer”. Shame to me I had never heard of him (he has won a Grammy Award, and been nominated countless times), so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that the show would be such that the first half would be him with his small band, and then him with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra for the second half, but that’s about it.

WOW! I was very impressed. It was very clear that the audience all around us knew exactly who this guy was, and once I heard him sing I knew exactly why – he was fantastic! I have not heard that much jazz overall, but as happens every time jazz typically makes me happy, makes me want to tap my feet and go along with what’s going on. Kurt Elling’s voice and performance and that of the other musicians definitely helped that along to the fullest extent.

I went from not knowing who he is to a big big fan! I am sure you could become one too (if not already a fan). Just in case, I’ll leave you with my favourite of his songs…Golden Lady

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