Saturday, February 25, 2012

February @ FTC

I was just looking back through my recent photos and realised how much I need to blog.  Kinda conveniently its about a monthly worth so I reckon its worth just doing a bulk upload/catch up.

At the end of January I saw the film 127 Hours after my mate Judgie told me it was on telly and gave me a brief synopsis of what it was about.  The film reminded me I needed to get a camera to take on the Gibraltar Cycle, a camera I could take out with me and not really worry about what happened to it.  I was actually researching with the laptop on my lap whilst the film was on!  I settled on a Canon A1200 - it had good reviews, would also shoot HD video, and I found it for just £60 ...the exact amount I had sitting on the bookcase! 

The following photo's and video were all taken with the A1200 as I've messed about with it over the past few weeks.  We took a few testers at home, so here's some of the rugrats to please the rellies who keep moaning I don't post enough photos of them!  In case you have forgotten what they look like Alfie looks like this;


And Esme has spent a lot of the month wrapped up like this.  Her beady eyes peaking out from either her snuggle bag (that our friend Cat kindly made for her) or the sling.

At the start of the February it snowed. 

And so I (foolishly) assumed Alfie would be overjoyed, and with that in mind dragged out Tash's old sledge from the barn.  The initial trial up the road was a huge success too.


And so we got Esme into her best 'Maggie' outfit and decided to take Harry out for a walk.
 But when your son starts doing 'superman' on the sledge, and then kicking his wellies off, you get a suspicion you might be in for a task!

And so we headed off into the fields, but kept the walk short so as not to turn out first born into an ice statue of doom, woes and terror.

Why do I say 'doom, woes and terror'?  Cos this is how much fun he had!

Once the snow had thawed Alfie had his first experience of mainsteam breakfast cereal.  And what better than Coco Pops?

Alfie has already become a wonderful big brother.  Whilst still his usual 'bull in a china shop' self, he is full of cuddles and kisses for his new little sister.

And when not with Esme he's liking nothing more than to turn every item into his latest play object.  Abel & Cole boxes included.

As for Esme, she's had ALL the new knitted clothes!

As the weather warmed (by the end of the month its even hit 14/15 degrees!) we've spent more and more time outside and Alfie seems to have developed something of a fascination with the chicken run.  At times, like when he drinks the chickens water, it can be frustrating.  But on other occasions, like when you wish you could just cage him up, its nice to know that you can!

We also got the (somewhat expected) news that Tash is to be made redundant.  We knew that if it were to happen we'd try and take the positives from it.  With her not having a job it means we have no ties to our current location, and so we're spreading the search for her next role far and wide - and that has meant applying for jobs within the UK, in Gibraltar, and even further afield. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

The ULTIMATE Pancakes

OK, tomorrow is pancake day and here's my recipes.  With having chooks running around the garden it means we have chicken sh!t everywhere!  It also means we have a good supply of eggs, which in turn means we have pancakes every week, and usually more than once.

A little while ago I spent an AGE researching and trying out different recipes until I settled on this one.  I prefer a 'crepe' style pancake, and I don't think there is anything better than this!

Here's how.  In a bowl you want 300ml milk, 125g flour, 2 eggs, dash of sugar and a pinch of salt.  You can also add some melted butter or even a little vanilla extract if you fancy.  Whisk this up to make your batter.  The key to making the perfect pancake is to get a good heavy bottomed frying pan on a med-low heat.  Once up to temperature you put a small amount of sunflower/veg oil in the middle of the pan and use a piece of folded up kitchen paper to spread the oil around the base of the pan.  You want just enough batter in the pan to cover the bottom - which depends on the pan and ladle/spoon you use.  As the edges become done use a plastic spatula to tempt them away from the pan.  Once this side is done it should have come away enough for you to toss, and will then only need a minute or two on the second side before being done.  After the first two or three you will notice the pancakes are cooking quicker so drop the heat down a little bit to ensure consistency.

To finish lemon and sugar is fine, but bacon and maple syrup is the pancake of champions!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Emirates Stadium (Arsenal, FA Cup Round 4)

Ever since Arsenal moved from Highbury to the Emirates I've been longing to visit North London to see what the impressive looking stadium was all about.

Our train line into London runs right past it, and our numerous trips to Camden Town had hit home on the visual impact front.  And with it being just 25 minutes on the train it meant it was the closest stadium for me to be able to watch Villa.  I had been meaning to go last season, but my adventures in the Great British Bake Off meant I missed my chance and so when Villa were drawn against Arsenal in the 4th round of this years FA Cup I was straight on the phone to my Dad to see if he fancied it.

Tickets secured, the 29th January soon came round and before I knew it we were exchanging welcomes at Finsbury Park station. 

Following the crowds we made our way round to the stadium, and before long it rose from the North London terraces.

Once inside, and with a beer inside us, we made our way to our seats ... which were actually pretty good, even though we were tucked into the corner which can be a right P.I.T.A.

It was a hell of a day.  The 5000 away fans were immense, and the first 45 minutes were spent continuously singing songs and jumping about.  It helps when you go 1-0 up after 30 minutes, and then whilst preying we might hold on we go 2-0 up on the stroke of half time.  I completely missed Darren Bents goal too.  Villa hit Arsenal on the counter attack and with Benty one-one-on with the keeper his shot was saved.  I had my head in my hands kicking the seat in front when all of a sudden the Villa fans started celebrating.  At first I thought the ref had just blown for half time, then I wondered if we somehow had a penalty, and finally it dawned on me we'd scored a second!  I guessed that after his shot was saved it must have rebounded out and he tucked the second chance away from a tight angle ... but I never really knew till I saw the highlights that night!

Sadly we came out for the second half looking like we were just waiting for Arsenal to score.  And that they did.  Three times.  And so we lost 3-2, but after the poor attendances and atmosphere that has been witnessed at Villa Park sometimes this year it made a real refreshing change.  The result aside it was without doubt the most enjoyable day at the footy i've had this season!

It had been a while since I did an away game, and I didn't realise how much I missed the relentless away fan enthusiasm and banter.  Even for a McLeish managed Aston Villa!  It certainly won't be long until I'm visiting another away ground to see Villa play away cos its games like these that you remember for the rest of your life.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Skull Jellyfish

After visiting Evil From The Needle for my clown tattoo back in October I spent a while speaking to Tash about how I would love a piece from Mark Ford.

Mark has a real unique and crazy style, and pretty much everything I've seen via his blog or on Facebook has had my jaw on floor exclaiming how freakin' cool it is!

My problem was a lot of my ink is planned, and I couldn't work out what to have him do or where it would go.  But checking his blog a few days later had my mind buzzing - he was introducing "Freehand Friday", a time where he tattoos, on his day off, something he wants to do - freehand - and charges minimum price for.

We were back in Camden during November for Tash's birthday and I popped into the shop to have a chat with him to learn how he did things (re: Freehand Friday) and when we could arrange an appointment.

A date was set for early January, which got bumped a fortnight, and ended up being the 20th - two weeks ago.  I had thrown a few ideas his way, but was really flexible as I just loved the idea of letting him run wild with what he wanted  His artistic mind wanders down paths I never knew existed!  I can see how such a lack of guidance or direction from a client would really frustrate an artist, and I hope it didn't piss him off too much - but a week or so before the appointment I saw him post about his desire to do a skull jellyfish.  Now I like skulls.  And I like creatures of the seas.  So I threw him a message announcing my approval of that kinda idea.

Friday 20th rolled around and I was on a train as early as the family would allow and down to Camden in really good time.  Mark and I had a quick chat about the ideas we had discussed, and we agreed to opt for the Skull Jellyfish to be placed down my left calf.  Mark had even drawn up a stencil, which I really hadn't expected, and I could see straight away it was gonna be as mind blowing as all his other work.

Mark got his station set up and soon we were ready to get underway.

It was real nice for me to know that both of us had the day free, so there was no pressure coming from the clock, and I had the privilege of someone with his artistic talent running free on my leg with ideas that entered his head.

I've done a few long sessions in my time, but I think I must have been under the needle for about five hours - way longer than I had anticipated Mark to give me (in a good way) and the level of detail he put into it really blew my mind.  And here's the finished  piece.  I absolutely love it and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time Mark makes my skin more colourful!

I walked home in complete comfort, amazed at how good my leg felt after the abuse it had taken.  And then had the next week of random shooting pains going down the back of my leg!  You just gotta love the healing process!