20 February 2008

amy macdonald

Dom downloaded This Is The Life in summer last year and was raving about it so much that by the end of the year it had become our favourite driving album. So, when I spotted tickets to see her at the Shepherd's Bush Empire for £12.50, I bought them for Dom for Christmas.

She didn't disappoint. As well as singing every song from her No 1 debut album, she gave us two work-in-progress new tracks, plus a cover of Mr. Brightside by the Killers, and then totally blew me away with a surprise appearance by Steve Cradock, lead guitarist for Ocean Colour Scene. Co-incidentally, we have been listening to Moseley Shoals a lot recently too, so to hear him play those incredible riffs from the Riverboat Song was just amazing.

Amy McDonald, Shepherd's Bush Empire

18 February 2008

roses are red, guinness is black

What more could a girl ask for than to be whisked away to Dublin for a surprise romantic Valentine's break? I really was blown away...chauffeur pick up at the airport, hotel on the banks of the River Liffey, candles and rose petals scattered across the room, champagne on ice, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a wonderful six-course meal. I was in heaven!!

the hotel dining room
Neither of us had been to Dublin before so on Friday we set about exploring. First stop, naturally, was the Guinness Storehouse. The black stuff definitely tastes better in Ireland.

mmm... Guinness
We loved the craic at the Ha'penny Bridge Inn and the live band singing Molly Molone, Finegan's Wake and other clap-a-long, stamp-a-long tunes.

Then the train to Howth on Saturday, and what a beautiful sunny day it was by the sea. Colourful rusty trawlers bringing in the day's catch, seal spotting, and a long vertigo-inducing walk around the cliff path.

boats in Howth harbour
a seal hoping for some fish scraps
the day's catch
c'est la vie

10 February 2008

the first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another

It certainly felt like spring today, so I was out in the garden, ruthlessly cutting back all those dead plants that winter had ravaged. Clearing away leaf-litter, turning and airing the soil, stopping young weeds in their tracks. And when I got up close I found evidence that spring is surely on it's way.

new shoots on the Hydrangea
berries on the Laurel
spring crocuses

07 February 2008

chicken out!

I have to admit I never really gave much thought to chicken welfare until I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's TV programme, launching the Chicken Out campaign a few weeks ago. He conducted an experiment rearing some chickens as free range and some chickens in a cramped, smelly barn - the way we rear 95% of the chickens we eat. It was disgusting.

I wasn't shocked in the sense that I knew in the back of my mind that conditions were bad, but I was appalled and ashamed that we, as a nation of consumers have bought chickens for so long without questioning the lives they have led. How could we have let it get like this? It is disrespect en-masse.

Dom and I don't eat whole chickens often, but after the show we immediately started buying free range eggs. Then when it came to buying a whole chicken from Asda, they had ran out of free range. I refused to buy anything else and sent a complaint email to customer services.

A week later, I checked Morrisons. There were some chickens on the shelf, but myself and two others were questioning whether we should buy them. The labels said they were RSPCA approved, but when you read the small print, they were actually kept in barns.

It turns out that Hugh and Jamie approve of the Freedom Food label. So it's better than nothing (it's still not good enough). At least if people buy the RSPCA approved chickens the supermarkets might shift their supply to meet the demand for ethical food.

I finally bought a chicken yesterday from Somerfield. It was the last one on the shelf that bore the Freedom Food label.

Now, I don't know whether it was just psychological, knowing that the little animal had lived a better life, but that chicken was possibly the best roast chicken we had ever tasted.

Support the campaign. Get Chickens Out!

Chicken Out! Campaign Sign-up

06 February 2008

flippin' yummy

We had lovely pancakes last night, with the traditional squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of sugar.

We got 8 pancakes out of such a small amount of ingredients (1 egg, 4Oz plain flour, 1/2 pint milk), why anyone would buy ready made pancakes I don't know. All the fun is in the flipping!

Is Pancake Day at risk of dying out?
Why do we eat pancakes today?