Saturday, 30 October 2010

Tea for One

There's something utterly delicious about having tea from a tea pot. Normally, I'm a dip a tea-bag in, give it a swish and a squeeze, kind of gal, but when I make the time to sit and have a proper breakfast with proper tea, the world is a better place. As my other half works, I'm often left to my own devices on Saturdays and I always try and have a proper breakfast, with proper tea, from a proper tea pot. It gives me a chance to quietly gather my thoughts and decide my plan of action for the day before I throw myself into my mental busy-ness.

I remember when I was 19 I was at work when I heard the news that a dear friend of mine had passed away. I travelled home from work, crying all the way and when I arrived home, the guy that I lived with opened the door just as I was reaching for my keys. With tears streaming down my face I stepped inside, trying to explain what was the matter. I don't think this guy, and his friend who was there, really had a clue what to do with a hysterical girl so they just said, in all its simplicity, 'D'ya want a cuppa' tea?'. And the world was a better place.

Welcome to Miami...

Last week, my husband and I had the privilege to spend five nights in Miami - courtesy of The Carphone Warehouse (I love my husband's job!). Miami is a city of contrast. Paradise nestled into a big city skyline, Little Havana across the bay from Millionaires' Mansions, shiny new buildings, next to derelict, hurricane ravaged shells, modernity opposite the Art Deco district of Ocean Drive. The juxtapositions are endless.

We stayed at the stunning Fontainebleau hotel. I haven't had the pleasure of staying in many hotels, as a child we often went camping or to a Haven holiday park! I feel so out of place in these amazing, larger than life, expensive, luxury hotels. But, I absolutely loved the Fountainebleau resort. It may be sprawling and confusing to navigate at times, but the standard of service is second to none and the luxury is all encompassing.

In our standard double room we were surprised to find an Apple Mac with complimentary internet access, as well as a 32" wall mounted television and a telephone and TV in the bathroom.

The poolside was large and uncrowded, with no problems securing ourselves a sun-soaked lounger at any time of day. The attendants provided us with fresh towels, drinks and food so realistically you could spend all day without getting up!

The back gate provides instant access to Miami Beach and the boardwalk, which runs the length of the coast down to South Beach. The coastal areas are beautiful with crystal, aquamarine oceans, white sand and majestic palms - it really looks like paradise but without overcrowding and the added advantage of city life too. At no point during our stay were we encompassed by tourists.

All of this luxury and impeccable service however comes at a cost, with an evening meal for two costing over $100, lunch approaching $50 and breakfast potentially nearing $20 - $30. The Fountainbleau is not within reasonable walking distance of any other restaurants either so if you're not willing to walk 40 minutes to Lincoln Road then you could end up spending a lot of money - although we did appreciate the Starbucks in the hotel next door! For this reason, although we did see some children, I don't think it would be the most comfortable or reasonable family holiday if you did decide to bring kids.
Miami itself is visibly a product of the American Dream. With its histroy rooted in immigrant communities and films like Scarface so much a part of its heritage, it is obvious that people have come here to build a better life. And once this wealth has been gained you can build yourself your very own fantasy home. Consequently there are Spanish villas, Arabian temples and French chateaus standing side by side on the same street. It's a little bit surreal!

I did feel like this idea of being able to come to Miami and build your fantasies resulted in a very individualistic city which lacked a little bit of soul. Despite the glamour which is possible, the clashing of individualistic tastes lacks some element of class and for all its wealth and prosperity, leaves you feeling both like you can have it all, but a little bit empty because you might never be satisfied.

I do love the beaches and surfside glamour, the hotels are impeccable, the weather amazing, but give me a city with soul any day. London plus the weather and beach would be my ideal home! Any suggestions?!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Book: The Choice, Susan Lewis

Nikki and Spence are having a baby. At 21 her parents think she's throwing her life away but at least she has the support of Spence and her house mates.

This tale of despair gets more and more intriguing and heart breaking as the story progresses, with many twists and turns along the way. However, with five or six sub plots vying for your attention at the same time, it's felt that maybe the characters and main narrative are ever explored in depth, instead remaining shallow and under developed.

This story should have had me in tears with it's heart-wrenching tragedy, but regrettable I remained detached and distracted by too many inconsequential red herrings, reminiscent of a bad crime novel and out of place in a modern drama. Had Lewis concentrated on one or two sub plots, than mish-mashing together a host of anomolies, maybe my review would have been different. But as it is I was left feeling like it lacked realism and was exasperated by yet more unneccessary twists designed to throw you off track. A page-turner all the same, I did enjoy it as a good pool-side read.

Score: 3/5

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Writers' Workshop: A Step Back in Time

If you could witness any event in history, what would it be, and why?

I have always had a curiosity when it comes to World War II and Nazi Germany. My Grandad Heinz grew up in M√ľnsterberg, Germany which is now a part of Poland, I would love to travel back through time and view the world through his perspective.

As an English girl, with a German last name, my history teachers would always ask what my Grandad had done during the war, they wanted to add some real-life pizzazz to their otherwise shallow lesson plans. In all honesty, at the time, I had no idea. They didn't understand that as a German who found himself in post-war England, my Grandad was hardly likely to say much about that part of his life. I believe that he preferred to keep a low profile when it came to his Nazi experiences. When I told my classmates that my dear Grandad had grown up in the Nazi Youth, they would jokingly brand me a Nazi too. They didn't seem to understand, that for my Grandad, there wasn't much choice. All young boys were enlisted into the organisation - it was like the scouts. It didn't make him tantermount to Adolf Hitler!

I always wondered what his true views were, as growing up under the regime was bound to have an effect on his beliefs and values. But he would never have voiced his opinions in Modern England, whatever they were.

At 17 my Grandad joined the Navy. He became a POW and was sent to America and later he came to England where he was released and told he could stay. He was a printer, which, as a journalist, I feel a strange kind of affinity to, although I don't know exactly what he printed.

I would like to follow his story. To know who his family were, and to fill in the gaps. I would like to know what he went through as a POW. What's it like to lose your family and think them dead, until 50 years passes and you find out they're still alive?

Germany is always portrayed as the 'villain' in the WWII narrative - and I do not hesitate in saying that Hitler's regime was pure evil and inhumane. But what was the perspective of the every day German? The naval officer? How did they cope? How were the 'heros', Britain and her allies, portrayed to them? What's it like to be on enemy soil and experience the prejudices of that country day after day.

I only knew my Grandad for his last 25 years, he was a kind, loving man who held his family dear to him. He liked to joke and laugh and enjoyed ciggarettes, a beer, and a good Sunday pub lunch. He took us on day trips around Poole when we were younger, and when we went to his house we played random board games that were about criminals hidden in Chinese Dragons. He may have fought in the war for the Germans, but to us, he was just our Grandad.

If I could step back in time, I would like to walk in my Grandad's shoes.

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Recipe: On-the-go Breakfast Bars

Want to keep hunger locked up 'til lunch but don't have time to rustle up the most important meal of the day? Believe me, I know exactly where you're coming from! I leave the house at 7am and embark on a two hour commute so a healthy breakfast is always something of a quandry! This recipe, though, has made it onto my must-do things for Sunday afternoons, so that I have a batch ready to last me for the week. I first found it on BBC Good Food, but have adapted it to include all the yummy things I like!

Makes about 14 pieces
50g butter
2 x small ripe bananas
3tbsp golden syrup
85g demerera sugar
140g porridge oats
Half tsp ground cinamon
50g dessicated coconut
2tbsp linseeds, slightly crushed
1tbsp sesame seeds
100g chopped hazelnuts

1. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a pan.
2. Add the bananas, mashed.
3. Add everything else, stirring in well.
4. Place the mixture in a greased tin and spread out into the corners.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 160C / gas mark 3.

Of course, this is something that you could throw just about anything into. I'm keen to experiment with some dried fruit at some point so I'll let you know how it goes!