Thursday, 9 April 2015

Meet Our New Baby Bunnies Franny and Zooey

Guys, meet Franny and Zooey: our new baby bunnies! Did you know baby bunnies are actually called 'kittens', or just 'kits'? I didn't until we started investigating getting some rabbit room-mates. 

Franny and Zooey are a pair of girl Netherland Dwarf / Lionhead Dwarf crosses. They're about 12 weeks old, which - as rabbits live about 10 years - makes them a bit less than 2 in human years. 

We met their mum and dad when we bought them, and they seemed like cool dudes. Their dad was an ex-show rabbit, pure Netherland Dwarf, and their mum was a 50/50 Netherland/ Lionhead cross.

They are teeny tiny at the mo - really just a handful - and almost unbearably cute. Like human babies, their style of investigating the world is pretty mouth-oriented. When they discover something new, their first instinct is to nibble it. Books, carpet, socked-feet - all are equal in the nibble-first, ask questions later approach to life. 

We've already noticed that they have quite distinct personalities. Franny (grey) is by far the bolder of the two, despite being about a 1/3 smaller than Zooey. She's a voracious eater and will climb all over you to get to a piece of basil. She will also happily nibble any piece of your clothing she has access to. Zooey, on the other hand, is a little shier. She alternates zooming around the room at top speed - interspersed with these hilarious little lamb-style jumps - and naps. 

I can't believe how much I love these little guys already. They are basically the bosses of the flat after less then two weeks. If you fancy a regular dose of cute, feel free to follow my new Instagram account which will probably (definitely) feature an unhealthy amount of these fuzzballs.  

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Bakes for Mum #1-4

If you're a regular reader (if I even have any of those!) you might have noticed that I haven't been posting as often recently. One thing that's been keeping me busy, and away from the blogging world, is a charity fundraiser I've been undertaking. I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned it in this space, but my mum died of cancer when I was 17. That was 10 years ago last month, and I felt like I wanted to do something to mark that passage of time, celebrate my mum and raise some money for charity.

I applaud people who do athletic feats for charity but, as anyone who knows me will attest, baking is more my style. So, from the beginning of March, I've been home-making different baked goods and delivering them into the hands of friends. Random acts of cake, as it were. I'm managing a rate of about one a week, so I suspect it'll take me a few months to get around everyone. It's been great fun so far; giving people unexpected edible goodies, baked especially for them, gives me the warm and fuzzies, as has my friends' response to the fundraising idea. All in all a lovely experience.

I'm raising money for Nottinghamshire Hospice, a charity which provides free palliative care for adults with life limiting illnesses and support to their carers. Check out my Just Giving page if you'd like to know more. 

Without further ado, here are my first four bakes...

#1 Mars Bar Chunk Cookies (for Sarah H)

For this bake, I adapted this chocolate chunk cookie recipe from Averie Cooks. I used only white sugar, not white and brown, plain flour (not bread flour) and switched out the chocolate for pieces of mini Mars Bars. They were delicious and had a great chewy texture. 

#2 Coffee and Walnut Cake (for Tom)

For this bake, I used one of my own recipes from way back in 2011. This is my go-to coffee cake recipe that I can always trust to turn out tasty. This time around I made the recipe with three eggs instead of two, which made for a nice big cake. 

#3 Blueberry and White Chocolate Blondies (for Harriet)

I've never made 'blondies' before (a pale tray-cake which has a dense texture like a brownie) and I was really happy with how they came out. I adapted this recipe from The Cozy Apron, using blueberries instead of raspberries - SO GOOD! I'd really recommend making blondies if you've never baked them before.

#4 Whisky Pecan Cake (for Jack)

Another new recipe for me, and somewhat of an experiment. I didn't use an existing recipe for this one, but my improvised approach actually worked out really well! 

First I made a basic loaf cake (2 large eggs, then the same weight as the eggs (in shells) of butter, sugar and SR flour, plus 1/2 tsp baking powder and pinch salt) which included a handful of chopped toasted pecans, then created a glaze by mixing icing sugar and whisky to give a medium thick, pourable consistency. I put lots of holes in the cake with a skewer then poured over the glaze until it wouldn't soak up any more. For the topping, I made up some thicker but still pourable whisky glaze, then used this to stick on a pile of lightly toasted pecans. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Goals for April

12 hours of training. Now that I've started Roller Derby rookie training (more on this to follow!), I’m keen to get my fitness levels up as quickly as possible. Practice is 2 hours a week, and I plan to supplement this with spinning classes and squash, and extra skating where I can. I’m really enjoying being more active and I want to push myself to keep it up in April.

4 hours of Spanish. I've really let my Spanish studying slide since coming back from Costa Rica. I’d hate to just lose all the progress I made in that 6 weeks, so this month I want to get back into it. I’m aiming for at least an hour a week.

4 new bakes. I’m currently doing a baking-related charity fundraiser (more to follow on this too!), and to keep on track I want to bake four different recipes in April.  

2 new books read. I know this won’t sound very ambitious to most people but I feel busy busy busy at the mo and so I’ll be happy if I get my two book club books read!

1 finished knitted scarf. In March I started my first knitting project in about years, and I am sooo out of practice – I basically had to teach myself to knit all over again! If I can get the scarf finished this month I’ll be happy.

1 optimistic Easter Sunday BBQ and Labyrinth screening with friends. Come on sun, do your thing! 

Do you have any goals for the first month of Spring?  

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Bechdal Test-Passing Movies to Watch on Netflix Now: Part 2

As I mentioned in my first instalment, in 2015 (and beyond) I'm make a conscious effort to watch more films that pass the Bechdel test. As pointed out in this article, the Bechdel test is not an ultimate standard but rather a bare minimum of female representation. I want films that go way beyond passing the test (as the films below do), but for me it provides a useful starting point for beginning to look at the representation of women in film. 

As with the first list, I've crudely categorised my list into 'serious' and 'funny', for want of a better system.  


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) UK

No part one alas, but you can find the second instalment of The Hunger Games series on Netflix. Jennifer Lawrence gives another engaging performance as protagonist Katniss Everdeen, in what Wiki tells me is the tenth highest grossing film at the US box office. Plus, the fact that the games select a male and female tribute from each district results in a good gender balance in the overall cast, so Lawrence's lead isn't set against an all-male backdrop. The Hunger Games gets a big double thumbs up from me. 

Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) & Vol 2 (2004) US

Basically tons of kick-ass women kicking some serious ass. I recently gave these films a re-watch and it struck me: anyone who thinks that a film with a female protagonist and largely female cast can't also be a high-grossing, hit at the box office, popular with critics, action-packed and super violent film... is a bloody idiot.


Whip It (2009) UK

I have so much love for this film. Female camaraderie - check. Brutal full-contact sport on roller skates - check. Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig and a veritable boat-load of other brilliant women actors - check. I really enjoy the female relationships represented here: Bliss and her mum; Bliss and her best friend; the Roller Derby girls in general. One of my favourite re-watch-on-a-wet-hungover-Sunday-afternoon movies.

Mean Girls (2004) US

Mean Girls was one of those movies that, on paper, I never expected to like. Then it turned out to be freaking awesome. Like a Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You for the 21st century. I suppose I should have guessed that with comedy genius Tina Fey writing the screenplay (as well as popping up in the film along with Amy Poehler as hilarious trying-to-be-down-with-the-kids mum), it was going to be pretty good.

Also, can we take a moment to appreciate some of the many quotable quotes! "Stop trying to make fetch happen." "On Wednesdays we wear pink." "Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die." "That's why her hair is so big: it's full of secrets." "You girls keep me young." If you watch this movie with friends, prepare for a multitude of quotes to invade your shared vernacular: you have been warned!

The First Wives Club (1996) UK

One of those movies that always seems to be on at Christmas, or when you're off work sick and moping about on the sofa, and (as far as I'm concerned) as comforting as a bowl of warm soup. With plenty of laugh out loud lines from an all star female cast (Goldie Hawn! Bette Midler! Diane Keaton! Maggie Smith!), I love that the main characters in this film are older women - a fleetingly rare occurrence in Hollywood. Frustratingly, when researching this post, I came across the reason that there's no First Wives Club sequel (hint: it's sexism). Grrr. 

Part three to follow! 
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