By Aislinn De'Ath

By Aislinn De'Ath
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Saturday, 31 December 2011

New years new....

Hello Reader! I'm currently writing this on my smartphone which means a) technology is taking over the world b) I am on a train and c) this may take a while. I'm off to spend New Year's Eve with The Lad's family ooop north, where there shall be much eating and drinking (Hurrah!). Now, it's customary around this time of year to make a few resolutions. I'm not really a big fan of that, as I tend to find that if I make them at New year I tend not to keep them, but if i did, this is what they'd be.


Ash's new Year resolutions (at least they would be if she made any ever)


1) keep below 9 stone. This one is mainly to do with acting stuff, not in an 'I need to be skinny to get parts' way but in an 'oh god I sent off measurements for my costume when I was at my skinniest and will defo be bursting out if i keep eating chips so often' sort of way. Also, at one point in the play I'm doing, I play someone who's like, fourteen. Fourteen year olds are not so much with the boobiness. Well. At least I wasn't when I was fourteen. I had friends who were, but I was flat as a pancake till I went off to uni and something in the water made them grow like a marvel comic.

2) get good reviews for my theatre tour. You know, cause that'd be rather nice. And I could put them in my scrapbook next to my other (one) review and tell my grandchildren what a glam young actress I was. I will, obviously, be glossing over the less glamorous times. Grandchildren do not need to hear about working at a call centre.

3) move into own place with The Lad (well, one can dream!) Somewhere with a smeg fridge and an exposed redbrick wall and maybe even a balcony. *sigh*

4) go on holiday somewhere hot. Because I haven't for YEARS. Don't care where so long as it's not chav tastic and has a pool. And a beach with sand. And alcohol. This would be a great present if any of my wealthy friends win the lottery...

5) read war and peace. I think this has been on my to do list for the past three years or so...

6) spend time with friends and family. This one may be difficult what with the tour and all, but I'll regret it if i don't, and let's face it, they're all FABULOUS so effort must be made.

7) get even more acting work. Maybe something with the BBC. Or directed by Mike leigh. Or another theatre tour! Tell you what, someone just give my number to the Hollywood organiser. That person exists right? You know, the person who goes, 'ah yes, let's make this person a verrrry popular actor in England for 2 years, then let them break into America, do some fabby Canadian work, then only have to do two films/plays a year for the rest of their life.' If that person IS reading this, I would love to play Hedda Gabler. Or if they're making a film based on Bluebeard, the female lead in that is awesome. Or...you know what? Just keep me in acting work and I'll be happy.

8) do some charity work. For the soul. Which is probably a bit tarnished from all my consumerism, buying Primark clothes, and not being vegan, and given that me and my friends were talking about the end of the world the other day, I reckon I need to give it a bit of a polish. Also, it's nice.

9) do something completely new. Even if it's just learning to make pasta with my exciting new pasta maker. Or dying my hair a new colour. Would be better if was something exciting though, like cuddling a baby tiger or playing ice hockey.

10) wear more exciting clothes. Because I can be really bloody boring sometimes with my choices, and when people buy me mad but gorgeous clothes I wear them to death and remember how much I adore looking a bit eccentric! The mother got me the most incredible little fifties style mini-dress with Sailor Jerry girls all over it and I keep wanting to wear it every day.

11) keep this blog up. Because at the end of January, I'll have been writing it for a whole year, and it would be a shame to stop now!

And that's about all I can think of! It used to be 'give up smoking' but I did that.  Yay. It's been quite a good year though Reader, I finished drama school, lived with a boyfriend for the first time, visited Ireland for the first time in ages, went to a health spa, did some interesting films, worked in a job for the longest I've ever managed (6 months so far!), got parts in radio and internet adverts, got the part of a lifetime to do a theatre tour next year, turned 23, saw my little brother off to uni, honed my baking skills, learnt to make steak despite being a veggie and have even managed to end the year with a little money saved up! I'm quite proud. I hope you've had a lovely year too Reader, and I hope that next year is even better.
Keep reading!
Ash
X

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas cupcakes (a tad late)

Reader! Here it is! The long awaited Christmas edition of mine and SJ's cake exploits blog! This time, we focused on finding the most Christmassy cakes from some of the shops we've tried in the past to see if they should go on our crimble list or be chucked out with the leftover sprouts. By the end of the day, we were so cupcaked out we had to go eat enormous amounts of salt, just to get some semblance of balance back in our poor hyperactive bodies. But the results were seriously mixed! Some of our best scorers let us down, and a new entry rocked the boat! So lets crack on with...

ASH & SJ's FESTIVE CAKE BLOG
HUMMINGBIRD
It was a cold and windswept day when we rolled up in central London, wearing so many layers we looked slightly like Verucca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, post chewing gum. I had been working at Spitafields Market since 7.30am doing a promotions job (highly glam jobbing actor's job...if you ignore the freezing weather conditions) and had noticed a Hummingbird Bakery tucked away around the corner. Now, you may remember Reader, that the last time we went to a Hummingbird, the cake did rather well. In fact, it got 10/10, the highest we had ever scored a cake. The only reason it lost out overall was that the staff could have done with being a bit more attentive. So we were full of excitement to try the festive range. Unfortunately, the most exciting options were not available that day. We'd been hoping for their egg-nog cupcake, or maybe a go at the mint candycane one as we hadn't seen anything remotely similar anywhere else, but because the festive menu gets rotated on a daily basis, the only option available to us was the chocolate orange flavour. At first we were a little glum about this, it seemed a bit boring, I mean, yes, we got the Christmassy theme being that everyone always gets a Terry's chocolate orange in their stocking, but would it really knock our socks off? The server assured us that it was really good, and she did seem to know what she was talking about (although once again we weren't altogether delighted with the service, she only gave us one fork despite us asking for two, then gave us a wooden one when we asked for another, wasn't very smiley or conversational and took ages just to get a cupcake to us). As usual, the shop was clean, well presented and stylish, but they seriously lost out on Christmas points! SJ and I are very much into our big, cheesy Christmas decorations. All there was at hummingbird was a couple of stickers on the window. I mean, really. The other slight issue was that there was only one table inside, and it was reserved. In a cupcake shop. On one of the coldest days of the year. Yes. Really. So we had to sit outside with our cake! How cruel. 

But reader, please do not think that the experience was all bad. The cake....oh lordy....the cake was amazing. It was richer than their usual chocolate cake, so moist I didn't really need my drink and the orange flavour tasted like genuine orange rather than fake flavouring. The buttercream was perfect in both taste and texture and we agreed that if it wasn't for the fact that we were about to embark on a whole load of cupcakes, we would have gotten another one each! 


PRICE: 3.95 (Yes, blooming expensive, but seriously worth it)
Taste: 10/10 (again!)
Staff: 5/10
Price: 8/10
Festivity: 1/10
Overall: 24/40

Oh dear Hummingbird! The best cakes, as ever, but your service (and Christmas cheer) needs some looking at! 

COX, COOKIES & CAKES

Now, Cox, Cookies & Cakes is a company who knows how to do Christmas. We walked in to fairy lights everywhere, festive statues and Christmas tunes blaring. The staff were initially a little standoffish (although the guy was attempting to do some form of mini photoshoot at the time with a cake) but warmed up throughout our visit, chatting away and giving us advice on cake and were gorgeous as ever (Oh Patrick Cox, you know how to make us ladies happy). Once again, we were given free hot coco (this time with whipped cream!) with our cake and there were chairs available (thank goodness!). We opted for the orange and cranberry star cake. The cake had a lovely sugar star on top which was a nice touch, some juicy fruit that tasted as if it had been soaked prior to baking and you get a lot of cake for your money. The icing was also particularly good, and the ratio of icing to sponge was excellent. Unfortunately, the sponge was a little dry and not very orangey, it could almost have done with a splash of juice in there! The icing did make up for it though, and there was certainly none left on our plates by the end!

PRICE: £2.50
Flavour: 7.5/10
Price:10/10
Staff: 8/10
Festivity: 9/10
Overall: 34.5/40
Bravo Cox, Cookies and Cakes. We like you a lot.

SWEET COUTURE

As we were walking back from Cox, we chanced upon a little cake shop called Sweet Couture, whose window was full of gorgeously presented cakes and a triple tiered red velvet cake that made us dash in (even though we both really needed a wee and there was no loo). They had a cake called Winter Spice which caught our eye at once with it's silver balls and bright orange icing. The woman who served us was lovely, very chatty, very friendly, just what we look for in a staff person! And she gave us both forks and a knife. Fabulous. The shop was also very christmassy, with the window adorned with a massive ribbon, it looked as if it had been giftwrapped! Unfortunately, the shop was let down by the cake. The sponge was quite dry, and so spicy it actually burnt going down. Too much nutmeg had been used, although it was a valiant effort and we did love the silver balls. The icing wasn't half bad, but we would almost have preferred a vanilla sponge to offset the spice! 
PRICE: £2.50
Flavour: 6/10
Price: 8/10
Staff: 9/10
Festivity:10/10
Overall: 33/40
Nice try Sweet Couture, maybe we'll give you a go again in the future!

PRIMROSE BAKERY

Reader, you may remember that last time we tried Primrose Bakery, we loved it. The cakes were delicious, the staff were a delight and the shop was perfect. So we had some pretty high expectations. We were a little disappointed by the fact that they only had two Christmas options, Christmas Pudding or bog standard Vanilla (although granted, the decorations on the vanilla ones were gorgeous).

 We went for Christmas Pudding because it sounded like it might be interesting. And it was. Sort of. In not the best way we've ever come across.  The thing is, Primrose bakery is LOVELY. Walking in is like taking a breath of fresh air. It was quiet, there were chairs and the staff were nice. But there were no Christmas decorations. Which was a shame, because the cake was then a bit like being assaulted by Santa. They used brandy butter for icing, which as a concept is nice, but it was overpowering in the extreme.The cinnamon in the sponge was like smoking a stick of the stuff and we ended up leaving much of it on the plate. Such disappointment!
 PRICE: 2.50
Flavour:4/10
Staff: 7.5/10
Price: 7/10
Festivity: 3/10
Overall: 21.5/10
Look how sad you made SJ....for shame.

CANDY CAKES

Reader, we should have known better. We've done Candy Cakes before and it was rubbish. But we were cold and running out of ideas that were nearby. So we thought it would only be fair to give them another chance. They only had one option, blueberry with a marshmallow reindeer on top (which is great, unless you're a veggie like me). The staff were distracted and kept chatting instead of paying attention to us as customers (in fact, they were so distracted that they later missed seeing a french kid smoking inside and then stealing a load of their sweets. They had a minimum payment limit for cards (YOU'RE IN CENTRAL LONDON! IN A BIT THAT HAS NO CASHPOINTS!!!) The cake was a bit blah, as expected. It was more of a muffin with icing than a cupcake, and to be honest, they needed to take a page out of the american cake makers book, they did not do baking with blueberries well. The problem is, Candy Cakes always looks really nice from a distance, and then you try it and it's a bit poo. It's like someone really passionate about cake started it, then let a crap management company cake over and ruin it. At least they had a Christmas tree. 
PRICE: £3.50
Flavour: 4.5/10
Staff: 3/10
Price: 2/10
Festivity: 5/10
Overall: 14.5/40
The lower edge of moderate. You made us look like grumpy yetis. 

Keep tuned for our New Years blog entry folks!
Ash & SJ
x

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hermitisation...

Reader, today I had my last day of work of the year. I was really tempted not to go because

a) I've twisted my ankle and so have a ridiculous limp (and the job involved lots of walking)
b) I had a crazy allergic reaction and one of my eyes was so swollen when I woke up I could barely open it
c) I'd had 3 hours sleep

but I went anyway because my boss is lovely and it would have been ridiculously hard to find someone to cover for me at such late notice. Also, because it was the last day, I knew it would be lovely and everyone would be full of high spirits! This turned out to be true of my co-workers, but not so much the  po-faced business people we were trying to give flyers to. But nothing could shake my optimism, because it's Christmas really really soon and the woman who won our big prize draw was both pregnant and had a hubby in the armed forces which meant she might be spending the holidays alone (well...actually, she was wearing a Help for Heroes badge, so I just sort of assumed all the rest, but it certainly made it more special when she won £500 in vouchers!). And now I'm free Reader! Free to spend my days watching film after terrible film on the Christmas24 movie channel and sneaking chocolates off the tree! Free to attempt to make a card holder (might leave that to my dad actually, his card holders are the stuff of legend. They don't always work, but they always look interesting. Like a piece of conceptional art from the 90s)! Free to make yule logs and try and make my hair get the Nigella bounce!

Today I got to watch It's A Wonderful Life with the parents (and a glass of something alcoholic and orangey) at which I cried (as I always do), plus we got to crack open the first box of chocolates of the season and I was introduced to The Graduate which made me cackle like an old biddy. How have I not seen it before? It's such a class act of a film, and so not what I expected. I even had a chance to tidy my room and get halfway through Jane Eyre (one of my fave winter books) whilst also planning my Gran's Yule log (I'm making the desserts for her Christmas dinner this year) and managing not to fall over my pathetic limpy foot. And to be honest, I'm planning on not leaving the house (with the exception of dire emergencies like more cream being needed or running out of brie) till we go to visit family on Christmas Eve!

On that note Reader, good night! Hope your dreams are full of mince pies and crackers!
Ash
x

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Children steal the covers

Reader, last night my seven year old cousin stayed over (largely to allow her parents to go to a Christmas party) which gave me a taste of what it must be like to have kids. As it's me doing the looking after, of course, there was quite a bit of baking, which mostly involved me making her wash her hands every five minutes because she's got a cough. Also there was lots of 'Can I lick the bowl?' 'No, it's got raw egg in it', 'what about this bowl?' ' That bowl too' 'what about this one?' 'That's got flour in it' 'But can I lick it?' (thinks about it) 'go on then'....'GAH! It tastes horrible!' Life lesson learnt there. Not sure what life lesson, maybe 'not everything in a cake bowl tastes like cake' but I feel like that's some serious parenting right there.

The other thing that came about was that little cousin taught me some life lessons. She tried some cookie dough *what is it about kids having to try everything* and went 'OW' then told me it was far too hot and she'd burnt her tongue. Being a smug grown up, of course, I tried some, only to yelp when my tongue singed. So what life lesson is that 'believe kids when they tell you not to do something'? To be fair, this is the same girl who won't use our loo without someone standing guard outside because there's a mermaid picture in there that freaks her out, she claims when she looked at it, it widened it's eyes at her (she watches a lot of Dr. Who), to try and calm her down, I told her the picture granted wishes, but she just said 'you can have my wish then'. Clever girl.

Because little cousin wanted a proper girly sleepover, we snd set out the sofa bed in the gym, where we watched Hoodwinked (which she loved). The only thing was, little cousin got to sleep pretty early and slept through all night, whereas I was up about four times, checking all the tree lights were off, checking Dad had got in ok, at one point I even got worried the little one might get hypothermia, so I went and got another blanket out to lay on top of us. Clearly little cousin had no such similar concerns for me, as when we woke up in the morning, she had turned herself into a sort of blanket larvae, and I was shivering like a little frost bitten match girl. At which point she was cheeky enough to go 'It was lovely and warm last night, wasn't it Ash?'. No, no it bleeding wasn't. Currently, she's pretending to be a spy with my dad, who's telling her she needs a fake tache as a disguise. She's convinced spying just involves hiding, but she is clearly wrong.

It just reinforces the idea in my head that I don't need to have kids yet. I have more than enough young cousins that I can look after them for a day, get my parenting fix and then pass them back to their parents when I need alone time. Easy peasy. None of this having to sort them out when they misbehave nonsense, just the fun watching cartoons bit.

Also, last night, my friend Kate popped over with her lovely mum and gave me some home made truffles. Am I excited about eating them? I've been thinking of little else since they arrived. Today is my last weigh in before Christmas, which means I can actually enjoy Christmas food from now on! Hurrah!

8 more sleeps till Christmas Reader!
Ash
x

P.s. hopefully you'll be getting the festive cake blog soon!

Monday, 12 December 2011

But baby it's cold outside...

Reader, my tummy hurts today (largely because yesterday all my day's worth of food in one very large, very delicious meal), it's blummin' freezing outside and I have a lot of wrapping to do. All of these seem to be very good reasons to stay in bed. Unfortunately I have work later, so I have a limited amount of time to be stubborn about it, but for now I've had my breakfast here, I've ordered pressies from here and if I can find the sellotape (which the parents have callously hidden), I'll do my wrapping here.

I had the office party on Saturday, which was great fun (although I wore a bit too much make up and am quite sure I looked a bit like a trannie). I got ready at my friend's house, where wonderful snackage was provided (pizza and prosecco, fabulous combo) while having a jolly good gossip and  getting tarted up. Then it was off (through blisteringly cold streets) to a bar in Leicester Square, where we were given a Christmas bonus of £20 (I spent mine on shots) and there was some seriously crap music playing. Luckily, me and my Liverpudlian friend were there to save the day and we got a bit of Dolly Parton and some Arthea playing (which led to some seriously awful dancing on my part). The problem was, what with the combo of airless basement bar, lots of people, booze and some hardcore dancing, I looked a MESS (I didn't actually realise how much till I was on the train home and checked my eye make-up in my compact, needless to say, there are crack addicts that look better to me.) At one point I had seen one of my colleagues come to chat to me, look horrified then do a swift 180 and talk to someone else. I hadn't realised it was because they were afraid of my face, but given how much like Pete Doherty in a dress I looked, I'm hardly surprised.

What was nice though, was that it was the first time in ages that I let go on a dancefloor without caring how I looked. Mainly because I was having FAR too much fun looking like a complete and utter knob. Hopefully there'll be another excuse to dance like a crazy again soon!

In other news, we put up our Christmas trees this weekend, which involved lots of arguing between Dad and I (he's an architect and loves the minimal look, whereas if I don't get a full on Dickensian Christmas, I am likely to sulk), more of my home made mince pies, Dad almost falling off a ladder trying to wind fairy lights round the foliage in our garden, Santa hats, Christmas music blaring out louder than a rave, Mum getting grumpy because Dad hadn't organised the cards properly and The Lad hiding under a slanket trying not to get roped into doing any work. Now the house looks utterly gorgeous, the perfect environment for me to learn lines in! Am getting very excited about the tour, but also pretty nervous. After all, it will be the longest I'll ever have done a show for, and the first time I'll have done theatre for about two years (eep!). I'm sure it'll be grand though, I'm so delighted that I'm finally going to be in a show my grandparents can come see (no nudity or violence? Perfect!) and I'll get to stay with one of my oldest friends for the entire rehearsal process! Which will mean vast amounts of trash tv and cheese. Perfect.

Right, I might attempt to leave the bed, I have one room left in the house which hasn't been fully Crimble-fied and this must be addressed!

Happy 12th day till Christmas!
Ash
x

Friday, 9 December 2011

*Zzzzzzzzz*

Reader, this has been a very long, very busy week. I have been up every day at about 5.30am and most days have not got home till around 10pm. I have been juggling acting work (that's the nice bit, one advert gig and two radio recordings, hurrah!), call centre work, promotions work, hospital appointments and getting ready for Christmas. Now I keep dozing off every few minutes (despite having had a nap earlier today...bliss) and my skin is suffering (I currently look like something in the woods parents warn their kids about) along with my stress levels (ever found yourself swearing at a fork? I have.).

Luckily, this weekend should be a surefire cure, I'm off to pick my Christmas trees with the dad on Saturday, going for my office Christmas party that night (during which I plan to get fabulously tipsy with my work friends in my new eighties style dress), decorating my trees Sunday, watching the muppets Christmas. Bliss. But first I have to get through an aerobics class tomorrow morning. Oh dear. Apart from that it should be pretty perfect though!

This week I've noticed signs that I am ageing quite scarily fast. How do I know this is happening? Well, I've become frequently aware of the commercialisation of Christmas (I had a tantrum because my Advent calender had a door in it that said 'Merry Cadbury Christmas'...you don't need to bloody promote yourselves I'M ALREADY EATING YOUR CHOCOLATE!!! It made me want to stamp on it, but I didn't because that would be a waste of delicious delicious chocolate.) If I had a choice, my Christmases would be Dickensian affairs with candles everywhere and real trees (none of this fake pine crap), there would be carol concerts every night and Christmas films on every channel. To be fair, this is remarkably close to what my family Christmases are like. Bloody marvellous. Although I'm increasingly finding I can't venture to the local shops because I get hulk stylee angry at cartoon character Christmas decorations. There are some things I am willing to overlook. Yes, we all know santa's real clothes are green, and it was his deal with Coca Cola that made them red, but given that not every santa costume has coca cola advertised on the bum, I'm ok with that. Ben Ten tree decorations are just plain wrong, and I'm sorry, but whoever came up with the idea of a Christmas Justin Beiber range needs a good kicking. Ok. That's THAT rant over.

The second reason for knowing I'm getting old is that I've become increasingly aware of customer service. I do work in the service industry, so that probably doesn't help (especially because I'm a stickler for making sure customers get what they asked for), but I get driven mad by bad phone advisers or sales people. I've stopped going to Patisserie Valerie altogether because the service is always so bad, and I've become one of those biddies who complains if she's not altogether delighted with the service and sends a letter of congratulations (with glitter) if people are friendly and quick. Two organisations in particular keep cropping up for me. One is Amazon, for good reasons. Every time I've dealt with Amazon, they've been polite, well meaning and fast. Just today I called them because of a package that hasn't arrived (which turned out to be the fault of Royal Mail) and they were sensational, instantly apologising and arranging for a solution, reducing my irritation by about 250% and leaving me with warm fuzzlies. Then you've got completely the other side, the NHS. You do get the rare gems in there (I have two local GPs who I adore and feel very comfortable with and would go to every time if I could) but for the most part, there is far too much lack of customer care, because yes, we ARE customers, even though we pay through our taxes rather than direct to them. Today was a prime example. I had an appointment at 8.30 in the morning, I turned up at 8.20 (early as ever) then had to wait half an hour to be seen (the nurse didn't even show up till 8.45 and I didn't receive an apology for her lateness, which isn't really even a customer service thing, just a politeness thing). There were cracks in the ceiling, strange Frankenstein style stains down the walls and the waiting area was freezing. Now, don't get me wrong, I am pro-NHS. I think we are very very lucky to live in a country that has a health system through which you don't have to pay for an ambulance or a heart transplant. But it needs improvement. I've been to NHS hospitals that are gorgeous, clean and spacious and full of lovely friendly workers. But there does seem to be a trend with the London ones where standards are slipping, and it isn't good enough. Maybe I should send a letter to someone. Is it too much to ask that the hospital shop sells nice food? Or that there are a couple of magazines for people to read? I don't think so!

Rant over, back to christmas joy and jingle!
Hurrah!
Ash
x

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Losing flab: The Epic Journey..

Reader, since I left uni and started seriously pursuing acting as a career, I have invariably been on one 'healthy eating' plan or another. I hesitate to use the word diet, because nearly all of them have stressed that they're not diets, they're ways of life. Which is a bit ridiculous really. Let's face it, creator's of health food, the whole point of you is to make fat people skinny. You are changing what they eat. Which is, essentially, called dieting. The main problem seems to be that whenever I get a bit fat (generally once or twice a year) I go 'Crap! I can't fit into my size 10s!' and what follows are a fair few months of counting calories and exercising (usually sporadically, I am really quite lazy). Then, as soon as I get to a size I'm happy with, I sort of forget why I started eating healthily in the first place and pick up my usual bad (but delicious) habits. Like eating buttery toast while I wait for dinner to cook. Or grating cheese over EVERYTHING. Or deciding that actually, the vending machine at work is my new best friend and I should visit it every couple of hours. I am a bit all or nothing. I've never reached anorexic stages (mainly because I'm such a massive foodie, I don't think I could bear to miss out, but also because I have no patience with tummy rumbling), but I think I do have a slight addiction to diets now. Then again, most women I come across seem to. Some are on the Cambridge (which seems to be a posher version of slimfast, so I avoid it with my life as slimfast just made me very grumpy for two weeks and my skin turned a horrible colour), some do the Dukan and have terrible breath because of all the cottage cheese, some do weight watchers (as did I, before they changed the system and it all got a bit complex) and some do the blood type (not ideal for me as I don't even know what blood type I am). Some of my friends (mainly men, but a couple of the girls too) are even on diets to gain weight.

What seems odd to me, is that these ways of eating are very very hard. It would be really great if our bodies would crave what we needed to be the size we look best at, surely evolution should work like that? Maybe it already does and I just look my best at a size 14, but I like to run, and as any girl will tell you, jogging with a booty is hard blooming work. To be honest, as an actor, my size constantly changes to suit the roles I play. Back when I was at drama school, I once had to be a burlesque dancer, a character who took great joy from all the sensual elements. So I really enjoyed my food for the role and put on about half a stone from all the dark chocolate (Best character prep EVER!). Conversely, for my final role, a widowed doctor who had moved into pathology, part of what I felt about the character was that she took no joy from food and her only real escape was early morning sprinting (it was the first time I had ever taken up running, and I did not enjoy it. It took me months to attempt it again!) so I ended up really skinny. My next big role will be in a national tour of a Dickens production next year, in which I play both the adult version of the part, and the young teenage version, and my boobs would have given me away had I not done some serious calorie deduction!

The thing is, there is something quite OCD and whilst fun isn't the word, pleasant might be, about keeping track of what you're eating. And it means that when I do pig out (which I do, at least once a week, this week it was chip shop chips with slabs of bread and butter! Mmmmmm...) I really enjoy it. Also, I feel really good about my figure, to the extent where I can wear skin tight clothes if I want to (since I have an hourglass figure naturally, when I'm slightly larger I can't really do this as it verges on pornographic and I usually get sent back upstairs to put something else on). I think the important thing is to not get too obsessed and know what's healthy and what's not. I've seen friends take dieting too far, and that's been enough for me to never be tempted to go over the top, I don't want to look like a skeleton unless it's halloween cheers...

So yeah. Don't get obsessive Readers! Like writing a blog about your eating habits....erm....
Ash
x

P.s. Another reason I'm being super healthy at the mo is that Christmas is coming up. I tend to put on a looooot of bounce over Christmas and I'm off to the in-laws for new year. Frankly, I don't intend to skimp on potatoes and quality street. So losing a bit pre-holidays means I can shovel it down like there's no tomorrow!

P.P.S Remember folks, dieting ISN'T a lifestyle-it's a way to fit more chocolate in when the time comes!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mince pies GET IN MY BELLY!

Oh Reader, today has been, quite frankly, bloody brilliant. It's one of my fave days of the year, the first of december, a day I look forward to for a number of reasons.

a) It's the first day I allow myself to listen to christmas songs on my i-pod. I have a selection which goes on Prunella (my i-pod) every year, and I've been listening to most of them since I was a bubba. There's the Frank Sinatra Christmas album, the Christmas with Bing album, the cheesy christmas hits that everyone gets sick of really early album and a bit of Ella Fitzgerald shoved in there too. The first time I listen to 'the first snowfall of the winter' always makes me go goosepimply, even though due to stupid global warming, this year it's more like the first bit of rank acid rain of the winter.

b) It's the first day I allow myself to eat mince pies. Today I had two. One that I got for free with my Skinny Toffeenut Latte and one Mr. Kipling one (because let's face it, however posh a mince pie is, it'll NEVER be as good as a Mr. Kipling...). I do feel vaguely ill now and as such am skipping dinner (possibly a bad idea as now all I want is chips for breakfast). It was worth it though, every crumb was a genuine delight of crimble brilliance. And they had none of that puff pastry pine ridiculousness (Oh Heston, I love you, but you don't mess with my mince pies man!).

c) I can wear a Santa hat and only be thought marginally odd.

d) Advent calenders! This year The Lad even got one for the cat! The cat ate a couple of treats from today's window and then showed the last one his bum. We think this is a sign of affection.

e) I can feel smug that I made my Christmas pudding's nearly a month ago (Thank you Delia, you utter beauty)

f) People I'm phoning at work have started to panic about their Christmas wine stock, so they're buying loads off me.

Today was also great for a number of other reasons. I got my office Christmas party dress (it's very tight and only has one arm. I look exceptionally 80s. Am considering crimping my hair to add to the effect.) I have never been to a work party before, so I'm very very excited. There will be a bit of free booze and food, and I've been told also a spectacularly cheese tastic dj. I'm hoping it'll be a bit like the Office Christmas special and I'll be like the Ricky Gervais with my awesome old-man-at-a-wedding dancing.

Also, I got another voice acting job for tomorrow, a commercial for Monday and some paid wine tasting too! What brilliance! Then an amazing thing happened (something which truly made me believe my own hype about the 1st of December magic). I get really bad migraines quite often, no one can seem to tell me why, although suggested reasons seem to be my eyesight, the pill, my hormones, my back, my diet, my lack of exposure to the sun, working in front of a computer etc. When I get them, drugs don't seem to be able to touch them, and I just get gradually more and more nauseous until I'm able to sleep. And sometimes that doesn't even work. Today was a bit of a prime example of that, I went to bed last night with a slight headache, it was still there this morning, then it progressed throughout the day until it became a hideous raging monster of a migraine at about 6pm. I began to fret, thinking 'oh bollocks, I'll have to go home early, Lord I feel so so sick, what if I vom on my desk?' when I got a call through to a highly hilarious old man who kept trying to chat me up. Reader, at the beginning of the call I had my head in my arms on my desk, by the end I was crying with laughter! After a long conversation about his family background (his great uncle got sent to Australia for stealing a pair of women's shoes) and cheesy come-on lines ('where would you like your case delivered sir?' 'well if it's you delivering it, straight to the bedroom!' 'How old are you sir?' 'Far older than Pierce Brosnan but better looking!') I noticed my headache had vanished and I was able to carry on with the rest of the shift. Quite frankly Reader, I think it may have been Santa in disguise.

Hope you're enjoying the festive spirit as much as I am!
Ash
x

Monday, 28 November 2011

Oh happy day....

Reader, I am a very positive person. Sometimes to ridiculous amounts. I try my hardest not to be a complainer, or to get too down in the dumps, because in my experience, positive attitudes attract positive results and negative attitudes attract...well, you get the picture. Sometimes, like anyone, I get a case of the blues, but it's very rare, and when it happens I work hard not to dwell on it. I have a cry, then fight my way back into a sunshiney disposition, even if I have to fake it till I discover I actually am happy again (believe it or not, this does work, it's like some kind of placebo!). Which is why I find I have very little sympathy for people who see life through grey tinted glasses. My brother has a tendency towards this, and it's been the cause of many an argument between us, with me  trying to shift him out of a bad mood, him insisting the world is out to get him, me talking about all the lovely things in his life, him talking them down till they sound a bit crap. It usually ends in me throwing a pillow at his head. I have also noticed this at work. We all complain about working in a call centre. It's only natural, it is after all, an incredibly boring job. However, there is a line between good natured 'ugh, this job stinks, I wish I could win the Euro Millions and retire to a small exotic island with a pile of books and a keg of pina colada' and 'This job stinks, I deserve better, I should be getting paid more, I cant take much more of this, how dare they make me try and sell wine to people who don't want it'. Get your head out of your arse. No one likes their job. Apart from maybe Bill Gates. Or Parkinson. And if you hate it that much? Change the job. Go and be a waiter, or a teacher, or a bus driver or an accountant.

Then you get people who just seem to like complaining. There were two women on the train from Chichester the other day who were whining about their high paid publishing jobs; 'Well they DID pay for the hotel, but it was only 4 star, the TV had Virgin rather than Sky and frankly the conference was a bore'. 'Did you get paid extra to go?' 'Oh yes, about 10 grand for 4 days, but it hardly seemed worth it for how bored I was'. I wanted to take them to some of the council flats in Tottenham and show them some of the amazing, cheerful people who live there on jobs that pay less than minimum wage, with three asthmatic kids, a buggered up lock on their door from people trying to break in and a bad case of damp in the walls. What's that old saying? Only boring people get bored. These are usually also the people who, when you say 'oh, how are you?' in a fleeting way, go 'I've been better' or 'Well, I had a crap weekend'. Day in, day out. Never 'Oh, I'm great, isn't it lovely and sunny?' or 'Fabulous! It's only a month till Christmas!'  or even 'Wonderful, it was cold today so I got to wear my favourite gloves'. No wonder they're bored, they don't bother looking for any joy in life!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you're not allowed to be down in the dumps. I've been depressed before, I know how hard it is to get out of bed when everything seems bleak. What I do suggest though, is let yourself have a limited amount of time to bask in the misery. There's a difference between clinical depression that needs drugs and possibly therapy and someone just being a moody sod. Interestingly, the people I know with clinical depression are far less willing to force their blues on other people than the moody sods. My trick is that I allow myself one day, or even just a few hours, to indulge in being grumpy, I watch sad films, I eat a family sized bar of dairy milk and some potato waffles, I write incredibly self indulgent diary entries and I may even have a cry to my mum, and then when my 'allotted time' has passed, I force myself to try and be positive and look at the world in a new light. And it works. There have been studies done on the power of positive thinking and it's many benifits. Positive people are the ones that get the jobs, the friends, the great experiences, they even bloody live longer! And they're not positive because of these things, it's all because of the positivity that they have them.

So go out and smile Reader! Go listen to carollers at Covent Garden, eat a mince pie or a Coconut cupcake from Lola's, watch it's a wonderful life, have a duvet day. Be happy! It's a rather nice world out there after all. And you'll live longer. Or something.
Bye for now,
Ash
x
p.s. has anyone noticed I've really got into the christmas spirit?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Department store cake's, with SJ (and music from the bloke who wrote the Crusha advert!)

Hello Reader!

So after much ado, and quite a lot of technical burps, here it is, the first filmed version of The Cake Blog with me and SJ! Apologies for bad quality of light, we're looking into ways of fixing that! Also, it's completely unscripted, so all opinions expressed are real and a bit silly. The jingle is by the wonderful creator of the Crusha adverts, Joel Veitch. We hope you like our little vlog, we had fun making it! 


Lots of love, Ash and SJ
x
p.s. for those who were wondering about the last blog, I did get the part I was waiting to hear about! Hurrah!

p.p.s sorry, I didn't realise that the 'embed image' thingy I copied and pasted didn't work. Here is the link to the video! Sorry I can't seem to embed it. I am a technological failure :(

http://vimeo.com/32382516

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Waitin' and wishin' and hopin' and dreamin'

Reader, one of the worst bits about being an actor is waiting to hear back from auditions you really, really want. It's an entirely aggravating process, through which you constantly think you hear your phone going off (it didn't), you get nervous if you're five minutes away from your emails and whenever anyone calls you that isn't an unknown number, you're instantly 'busy'. Then, when an unknown number does call and it's not the casting people, you get unaccountably pissed off with the poor sod on the other end of the phone. How DARE they not be people telling you that you're hired!

You may have guessed, Reader, that I am currently in that situation. I know I'm down to the last two for a part that I really really want, and I know that they're auditioning the other girl again today. So after about 3pm I shall most likely be a nervous wreck. I'm already keeping my phone in my bra (in case the girl doesn't show or has chopped off all her hair so they decide to just give me the part) and am already showing signs of a nervous breakdown. The thing is, if I hadn't known it was just between me and one girl, I think I'd be less worried. If there were a sea of nameless actors I was up against, I'd think 'well, it's like playing the lottery, no point getting nervous' but now it's more like a gameshow or something. I'm having to distract myself by doing lots of other things. Here is my list of things to do whilst trying to get the audition off my mind:


  • Bake cookies (have made three trays so far)
  • Go to a Rosemary Connelly class (ignoring cookies on side)
  • Aerobics class with much older women who are much fitter than me
  • Tea at Grandparents (hide phone, they might think I'm being rude)
  • Take cat to vet to get his lump prodded (the scratches might distract me)
  • Remove make up, then re-apply
  • Eat The Lad's birthday chocolate, turn the Rosemary Connelly booklet upside down because it's making me feel guilty
  • Paint nails
  • Realise nail varnish is gone all gloopy and hurry to take it off, spilling it on white duvet
  • Read Tolstoy
  • Stop reading Tolstoy and pick up copy of Cosmopolitan instead
  • Stop reading Cosmo and pick up copy of Heat instead
  • Stop reading Heat and pick up copy of Thomas the Tank engine instead
  • Stroke cat
  • Tend to scratches
  • Check online to see if the casting director's been really obvious and has written any hints on her facebook
  • Wonder if adding casting director as a friend on facebook is too bum-lickey
  • Make a chart of x-factor predictions
  • Book a train ticket to see friend on other side of England
  • Consider quitting acting to become a teacher 
  • Consider cutting hair
  • Decide not to cut hair
  • Decide to cut hair if I don't get the part
  • Go slowly but surely mad
The end!
Ash
x

Friday, 11 November 2011

In which The Lad gets older....

It's a special day today Reader, because The Lad is turning 23. Finally he will be the same age as me (so I won't feel like quite such a cradle snatcher). This may mean that he comes home wearing a suit, talking about his shares in the plastic industry and worrying about a pension and varicose veins, but that's quite unlikely. What's more likely is that he'll come home, get very excited about the prospect of the novelty cake I've made (the theme of which I'm keeping a secret till he sees it, but will post a pic later), glue himself to his Xbox (Skyrim arrived today-there goes my relationship...) and talk about pokemon. He may at some point try to tickle me till I wee a little bit (let's hope not, I hate being tickled) and will go to bed fully clothed like he did the other night (tirednenss? Coldness? I have no idea.).

Tomorrow night we're going to a rather groovy place called The Breakfast club and having lots of cocktails. I'll buy us something cheese covered to eat (or rather, I'll buy HIM something cheese covered. I may have something like that if my weigh in goes to plan, but if not, I'll just stick to the booze). A group of our lovely friends will be coming and hopefully a fabulous night will be had by all. And then the next day, we're playing board games (am slightly concerned he may force us to play the Pokemon game my parents got him, but am hopeful I can distract him with the prospect of snacks). He's quite spoilt really, but given that the poor sod is working 6 day weeks till Christmas, I reckon he quite deserves a bit of spoiling.

You may have noticed I mentioned a weigh in...that's right, I'm trying to lose a couple of cakes worth of lbs. Not so much because I'm lardy at the moment, more because I'm very aware Christmas is coming up, and I'm planning to eat pretty much the whole contents of Marks and Spencers. Particularly their chocolate covered cherries. Christmas has always been about family, cosiness and eating frankly shocking amounts for me, and this year will be no different. In fact, I bet there'll be some competition between me and The Lad on who can eat the most, given that this year will be the first we'll be spending together (am I excited? Yes. Am I a little bit sad that this means I'll have to share my quality street? Yes.). Last year, I got so carried away by mince pies, I had a tiny bit of a melt down the week before christmas when I realised I couldn't fit my arse in a coveted christmas outfit, so this year, I've promised myself that I'll only truly pig out the week of Crimbo. Which means aerobics classes till then, and portions my great grandmother would have spat at. Fun.

So what else is happening? I got made a team leader at work (yay!) which basically means that they trust me to keep people entertained and buy lots of glitter covered signs for our pod (we already have paper chains, a paper snow mountain range and a glittery christmas sign and that's only the beginning. Someone asked me if I wanted to be a kids tv presenter the other day because of all my d.i.y decs!). It's a bit exhausting, means that I have a whole lot less free time now as I spend my mornings buying prizes for competitions and have to come in early for meetings, and I stay late at work making sure everything is properly put away. I feel a bit like a hyperactive mother from the fifties, passing round biscuits and making sure everyone has a nice time. I'm hardly rock and roll sadly, but ah well!

Right loves, I'm off to put on a wash, since most of my clothes are now covered in flour,
Bye!
Ash
x

Friday, 4 November 2011

All women are not sperm thieves...(now there's a title I never thought I'd write...)

Reader, you cannot have missed the huge outcry that's come from columnist Liz Jones writing about the time she stole her boyfriend's sperm to attempt to impregnate herself. As a very smart friend said the other night, she's a journalist, she's written it for the sensationalism that it would create, the notoriety it would paint her with and the column inches she would gain. Fair enough. But for the point of this entry, I'm going to ignore that element of it, because I find the whole concept of a woman being THAT desperate fascinating in an 'Oh God, I can't believe....oh gross....oh that's really not a great idea' sort of a way. If you haven't read the article, you can find it here.

The whole article is a series of oxymoron based phrases and ideals. The writer claims to be a feminist (the same woman who got a breast reduction because she wanted to look more like a model) and says that she looked down on mumsy types. Now, first and foremost, I might be wrong, but surely feminism is about support for each other? About women having the right to choose what they want out of life just as much as men do? And if a woman chooses to be a stay at home wife and mother, what's wrong with that? It's still a choice.

Next, she talks about having a boyfriend who was so suspicious of her that when they first started dating, he wouldn't have sex with her. All I can think about this is CLEVER MAN. Fair enough that he wouldn't shag her when she was constantly whittering about her dwindling egg supply, or agree to have a child when they clearly didn't work as a couple. But also, she had told the poor sod she didn't want a family with him! How could he even consider the idea properly when she'd vehemently denied wanting kids with him!

And then (and this is the gross bit) after they'd done the horizontal tango, she'd sneak off to the loo with his used condom and do things that I can't even think of without gagging a little. And then she has the audacity to say 'I don’t understand why more men aren’t wise to this risk — maybe sex addles their brain'
yep, that's right guys, all of us girls are just despo to steal your baby-making materials make a child against your will. So guard those disposed condoms like precious gold, gold I tells ye! I just had a thought of a man laying in bed going 'B'jeebus! I was so knocked out by all that hardcore sexing that I forgot to put my sperm in the little safe I carry around with me! NOoooooo!' and his girlfriend scurrying into the loo like the imps from 'Willow' going 'I stole a baby! I stole a baby!'. I mean seriously. Also, how patronising to think that men are slaves to their willies that much. I know sex rules our lives as human beans, but I'm pretty sure my male friends and peers wouldn't be able to do their jobs if all they were thinking about was getting it on every second of every day. Although, admittedly, part of me does find the idea that you'd be able to spot who'd got some recently by how dizzy they looked hilarious.

The thing is, I know I'm only 23, but do women really get to the point where they're so eager to have their bellies practically torn open that they'll quite happily degrade themselves that much? I know I have time on my side, but I genuinely can't imagine that I would turn into such a rabid nightmare if a partner didn't want kids with me. If I wanted them that much, that being in an unhappy relationship and stealing his sperm seemed like a good plan, I'd slap myself, end the relationship and go to a sperm bank. Or Adopt. Or foster. 

Saying that, as I said, I'm young. I haven't been through the trials of not being able to concieve, I haven't reached that stage where my body rebels against me and cries out for pregnancy and nor have I been in a relationship with a complete commitment phobe. Maybe when I'm 38 and The Lad wants to jaunt off and follow his dreams of becoming an international pokemon hunter instead of settling down and having a couple of really chubby babies, I'll go a bit mental. But I pray that I would never become the sort of person to trap someone into staying in a relationship. And if I did, I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to write about it. Because despite my horror at the story, and the way she's depicted women in their 30s and 40s (tarred with the same brush much?!) I do quite admire Liz Jones. She makes no attempt to make herself come out as the hero or indeed the victim in her columns. She is unashamed about her past, she just offers it up, and let's face it, she's a talented writer, they make for entertaining reading. I almost have to think 'well, good for her, that's a very ugly side of herself she's exposed' which few women (or indeed men, because I'm sure there MUST be men so broody they'd do something silly) would let anyone know about.

Ash
x

Monday, 31 October 2011

Move those hips!

Reader, I am a complete ding-bat and managed to do something atrocious to my back in an aerobics class full of old ladies. I've been trying to get healthy for Christmas so that I can eat like a pig and drink like a fish and not feel too guilty about it, so I've taken up doing a really long exercise class every saturday, carrying on jogging three times a week and am going to pilates tonight. God help me.

I was always that child who pretended to be ill to get out of exercising at school, pressing my head against a radiator to make me feel feverish and limping to fake a sprained ankle 'I think it might be broken Miss!' so as you might guess, exercise does not come naturally to me. But because I've worked out that it gives me the chance to be unbearably smug, I now throw myself into it whole heartedly. Sometimes too wholeheartedly, as my crooked back would tell you if it could talk. Actually it probably wouldn't say that, it would probably just groan and ask for a hot water bottle.

Apart from the back issue, it's been a great weekend. I went out for drinks with the work lot on friday, dressed in a shockingly bad wig to be Uma Therman in Pulp Fiction, got far too drunk on Tesco gin and tonic in a can, gave strangers on a train cupcakes and got lost walking back from the station at about 1.30 in the morning. Saturday I went to a friend's Halloween party dressed as a bright green demon magician and got face paint EVERYWHERE (thank god she put dust sheets all over her gorgeous designer furniture!), Then finally yesterday we hosted an afternoon halloween tea for the kids in my family (and some big kids too). My gorgeous godson AG was particularly enthralled by mine and the lad's costumes and showed off his new skills at walking and chewing place mats. He's at that brilliant stage where 'peek-a-boo' is still the funniest thing in the world, and he's just learnt that crawling away really fast is a fun way to escape family occasions. Brilliant child.

On that note Reader, I'm off to go and sort out my costume tonight, must NOT let the trick or treater's down!
Ash
x

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Solitary traveller...

Reader, travelling alone is not my idea of a great time. I like sharing experiences, having someone to natter with and share bags of boiled sweets with on the train journey. Also, I get vaguely nervous when I travel solo, largely because I'm so dappy things are certain to go abysmally astray. To be honest, I spend roughly 87.5% of my life convinced that a big man in an ugly tie will come and tell me off at any minute and travelling alone seems to aggravate that fear.

I think everyone has that to an extent, that feeling that if they check your ticket, they'll realise that you've done something terribly wrong and you actually owe them three kazillion pounds. Well, if that had happened to me on the trip I took yesterday, I would certainly not be able to pay as I'd spent the last of my pennies on trashy books for the trip (mainly, I regret to say, about vampires. No, not twilight. Some weird rip off, which is sort of worse really isn't it?) and a family sized bag of peanut M&M's (I am a traveller who firmly believes that without chocolate, no trip is truly complete..).

The thing is, when you travel with someone else, it's a bit of an adventure getting things wrong, something you can laugh about later in that smug 'we had a shared life experience' sort of way. Whereas when you're alone, you just want to go 'look, I'm a kid, I think it's really unfair that you're being so mean to me' before you realise that obviously you're not a child, you're 23, which is plenty old enough to take responsibility for your actions. Bugger.

And even if the whole travelling malarkey doesn't end up with you in jail having uncomfortable conversations about your return ticket to Little-Bums-On-Sea, it's still all so expensive! £30 return? For three hours on a smelly train filled with impeccably boring men in suits? For that I'd at least like a gin and tonic in a proper glass. And a guaranteed seat. I had to practically knock out a woman with a pram to get mine!

Then of course there's the staying in a strange place bit. If I'd have been there with someone else, we'd have gone for dinner, played some kind of 'murder in the dark' game, cuddled up against the freezing country air and generally had a few larks. Whereas, as a solitary traveller, I was painfully aware that a) I was a young girl all alone b) In the middle of nowhere, opposite a big scary hay barn and c) wasn't that what happened in Psycho? The strangeness of the B&B I was in added to the nerves. Within ten minutes of getting there I'd found a conker in a small china pot with an elastic band and a tiny key, a book on prince William, the most old school tv I'd come across in years and lamp that seemed to have screaming faces growing out of it's china base. It probably didn't help that it's quite near Halloween and I just watched Paranormal Activity 3 this week. Or that Mum showed me all this stuff about a local poltergeist haunting that happened just down the road from where we live. I have a seriously overactive imagination, so hearing so much about ghosties and then going off to stay in a creaky old farmhouse was probably not the best idea. Especially since my room didn't appear to have a lock.

I'd sort of decided that I was going to make the best of things and try and make it a mini-holiday, but that didn't really work out. All the sugar I ate gave me funny hyperactive palpitations, I forgot my conditioner and I over moisturised, so I kept sliding off surfaces.Then I couldn't get to sleep, but my eyes felt so tired I couldn't read the small print of my crap book, so I spent most of the night tweeting and checking how my stuff on Ebay was doing (when I could get signal, which had to involve standing on the bed with my arm above my head, or crouched in one specific corner)Three hours sleep I had Reader. And worst of all, when I finally got up at 5am (!!!) the only cerials they had were ones designed to do things to old people's bowels. Hideous. The taxi's are different in the countryside as well. I got charged for the taxi's journey to come get me! I mean, how unfair is that? I defo couldn't do living in the sticks. I'd miss easy, cheap travel too much! I suppose I'd have to learn to drive. And take up gardening. And learn how to make my own clothes. Food is almost always tastier in the countryside too, so I'd almost certainly get fat and start wearing overalls.

Speaking of getting fat, there'll be another cake blog entry next week, so keep your eyes peeled! Am actually making cakes today (between jobs, reading to small children and selling wine to adults, must try to not get the two confused) as a sort of bonus for my workmates if they agree to coming in dressed up in halloween costumes tomorrow. I'm not sure it'll work, I may actually be the only one who comes in fully attired in costume. That would be a bit cringe. Let's hope they dress up!

Off to read to chiddlers I go!
Ash
x

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Oh dear...

Reader, I just woke up to my mum popping her head round the door to let me know the cat had pooped all over the carpet and since she was running late for work, the task of cleaning it fell to me. And a text telling me that coffee with a friend was off due to illness. Not the best start to a day I've ever had. Now, if it was a day off, this wouldn't bother me quite so much. But I'm off to work at 11, so my morning is precious to me. I somewhat feel like I should try and force it better by having a a big greasy fry up in a builders cafe, but the thought of sitting there alone in my fake fur shovelling chips and beans into my gob is slightly sordid for some reason. If it was any other week, I'd go 'sod it!' and take the day off, hide under my covers, only appearing for a bout of SATC and possibly a trip to the shop to get ingredients for bangers and mash, but I seriously need the money at the moment.

 Next week am travelling to Newbury to do some supporting actor work (AKA prancing round in the background in a maids cap, I think it would be called being an extra if it wasn't for the fact that there are so few of us in the series), and because they'll want us on set at 7am, I'll have to stay over the night before in a B and B. Now this does mean that technically, that's my whole wage for the day gone on getting down there, but it's a great experience being on set, and I feel like by getting to know the process of filming for a tv show, I won;'t be so nervous if I get a part on one (hope hope plead plead). But as I was saying, it's going to leave me out of pocket, especially as I won't get paid for it for two months. Then we have Halloween (which will mean buying bits for my costume and booze),  followed by Christmas, which means buying for my 33 family members and close friends. Oh god. I need to earn more than what I currently do! Maybe I should turn to prostitution, that one off the telly that Billie Piper played was well in the money. But then I'd have to see hairy greasy men naked, eurgh. Maybe not. What else earns loads of money in a short amount of time? Drug trials? But then I could feasibly die, so slightly risky. Selling my hair? But then I'd be back to the Harry Potter crop, gah.

Looks like I'll just have to win the lottery. I hate dealing with money Reader, it stresses me out no end. I was clearly made to be the heir of a huge fortune who doesn't have to give a toss about bills and things. Although I bet the more money you have the harder it is, because the bigger the bills get. There's no winning!

So what else has been going on of late? I've finally done some work on getting my showreel edited (more expense! Argh!), and the other day I filmed a video blog (which I'm trying to figure out how to put together, or even make just one file. I am not good at electrickery...). Work is dull at the moment, it's the slow period before Christmas (when hopefully there'll be a massive rush on wine and we'll all be up to our necks in freebies and commission). Luckily, I like my co-workers, they're pretty much the best part of the job!

I've been very nostalgic of late because we're having such a beautiful Autumn, and that always reminds me of being at school during the harvest festival and seeing the stage in the assembly hall piled with tins and us all singing 'Autumn days when the grass is jewelled and the silk inside a chestnut shell, jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled and A WIN FOR MY HOME TEAM' (you have to shout that last bit). It slightly makes me want to go back to church, because I'm sure you'd get a sense of that, only instead of a portly head teacher it would be a priest or a vicar talking about the joys of autumn and reading st. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (was it just my schools that always read that out?). I remember my school used to have this logo that I've never understood 'Zeal with Truth'. I mean really, what on earth does that mean? Be energetically honest? What nonsense. 'Work hard, eat your greens' would be better. Or 'We know what you're up to' for the more suspicious teachers. Primary school was a really mixed experience for me, I was quite badly bullied but it was a great school on the whole. We got taught how to sew and had a teacher who used to play us The Hobbit as we worked. Every year there'd be an art competition where you had to paint flowers, sponsored by the local florist, and at Christmas there'd be a service in the local church called 'Christdingle' where we'd all walk round in the darkened room with oranges that had sweets on sticks poking out of them and a really big candle. They'd light the candles (bit dangerous) then the whole room would sing carols in the glow of children's faces lit up by fire. It was actually lovely, although I remember when I'd left and my little brother was doing it, we were in abject fear because the girl in front of him had long hair and we were convinced he'd set it alight...

Ahhhhh memories (in the corner of my miiiiiiind)
On that note reader, I'm off to indulge my greasy breakfast craving!
Ash
x

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Party girl...

Reader, I think my party girl side is coming out again. Now, this sounds a bit poncy, but it's true, since I left my BA I haven't really wanted to go party, mainly because (I think anyway) for the past two years I was doing my MA at drama school, and frankly, no one has the energy to do a full schedule of actor's training every day and then go out on the razz (unless they're on drugs, not a fabulous idea for actors, but it happens. I have friends who manage to do 20 hour days for most of the week thanks to some serious pill dropping, but their acting? Sub par.)

But now that my days are a lot less stressful, I'm finding that the urge to go party the night away is slowly coming back, a few drinks out with the workmates on Fridays are getting later each week, I keep veering towards sparkly clothes in Topshop (although there are so many 12 year olds in there that I'm starting to worry that I'm a bit old for it!), and the biggest sign that my inner night owl is coming out is that I woke up completely hangover free! It was that fantastic moment when you open one eye and try to gauge how  ill you'll feel if you turn over to grab a glass of water, and then realise that actually, you feel so good you could do the whole night again but with more dancing. It's one of my favourite things to happen but also a very dangerous thing, because it also makes me think that I can do it 3 times a week, then 2 weeks later I end up feeling very sorry for myself, with nausea only doritos and diet coke will help, out of money and with a few tragically awful  memories (or lack thereof). Anyone remember the time I vommed on that really cute blokes shoes? I don't, but he told me all about it. And never tried to chat me up again. Or the time I did a really sexy pole dance move in the local student club and knocked a girls bag out of her hands with my foot? Yeah. Party girl Ash is fun for most of the time, but after a while? She makes Sober Ash feel a bit cringe. Which is quite handy really, because it means that I can keep her under wraps for the majority of the year! I like to let my hair down a bit though, which is quite handy seeing as my lovely workmates go out nearly every friday to our local pub. Last night was no exception, although am clearly a major lightweight, after 4 drinks, I was practically falling over, was at home in bed by midnight and I'm pretty sure I showed off my 'hip hop dance'. Don't ask. Great fun though. Roll on next friday!

Today I have a day of cooking ahead, as am catering a rehearsed reading (that I'm also acting in, hurrah!) and  am making bread from scratch and two kinds of cake and a wheat free muffin (eep!). If I can work out how to use the camera on my phone, I may even turn it into a video blog entry. No promises though, Me and technology don't get along too well.

And on that note, I'm away to do something constructive! Like work out how to make bread rise! (eep!)

Love
Ash
x

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Another cake day, another cake blog entry...

Well, the response from my entry on mine and SJ's cake exploits has been fantastic (thank you all for your messages and tips!) so we've decided to make it a semi-regular occurrence! This may mean that by the end we'll be as fat as hippos (hippopotomi? That sounds vaguely sciency.) but will be delightful degrees of fun. And guess what? We did another one this week!

So here it is

ASH AND SJ'S SOHO/COVENT GARDEN AUTUMN CUPCAKE SHOP ROUND UP! (bit of a long title but oh well...)


1. PATISSERIE VALERIE'S BLUEBERRY CUPCAKE


First and foremost, I think it's important to point out that we love Patisserie Valerie. It's not only pretty, but it's cosy. And they do really pretty pastries, which we've really enjoyed in the past (indeed, as much as we love love love cupcakes, when we went in it was all we could do to not gobble up their flaky goodness instead).
And when we saw this cupcake, we were just as excited. I mean, look at it. It's blue. It has a white chocolate star on it for crying out loud. Someone's casually but professionally drizzled a cheeky bit of chocolate over it. Even the paper casing had a little frill. It was a bit like seeing a fittie on the tube that you know is a bit out of your league but is looking at you with sultry eyes none the less. But like in that situation, you know that there must be something slightly off, like an STD or a girl's dodgily tattooed on their bum that sours the deal. After all, surely something that looks that good can't taste as fabulous? It's like a trap or something.

And in this case, our theory was right. When we ordered it, our server looked a bit shocked, like 'Seriously? You only want one? You're crazy...' Which was a pretty great way of up-selling because a) we felt instantly guilty and b) we thought that meant that the cake would be so good we'd want way more. But we managed to resist. Now, it is also important to point out that we didn't actually know what the flavour of cupcake was when we got it. Our choice was made by going 'oohh blue, pretty!'. The cakes weren't clearly labelled, not that there was much in the way of choice of colours anyway. When we tasted it, we were both confused as heck. I tasted what I thought might be lemon, SJ picked out a grape flavour, but we were both in agreement that it was sickly as anything. The server was the one that told us what it was supposed to taste like, but neither of us could actually taste any blueberry in the icing. The sponge was almost brioche-like, on the verge of savoury, which turned out to be a good thing because if the icing had been any sweeter we'd have lost teeth. It balanced it slightly. Because of the sickly nature of the icing, it would benefited from some fresh fruit like bitter blueberries rather than chocolate as a decoration to offset the sweetness. We agreed that we'd probably not have been able to finish a whole cake ourselves, and we're pretty greedy.

So although the cake was aright, it didn't set us on fire like some have in the past. A resounding 'MEH' for Patisserie Valerie! In the end, it got 20 and a half out of thirty.

2. CRUMBS & DOILIES PUMPKIN AND CREAM CHEESE CUPCAKES



SJ had sent me a link before we'd set off, that led to the Crumbs and Doilies website. I've got to say, I was pretty excited. They seemed passionate about their cakes, a passion that I recognised pretty darn well. And I loved the sound of their cake flavours. I mean, who could possibly have a problem with salted caramel right? And when we got there, we were excited to see that they had a seasonal cake. Pumpkin and cream cheese! How twee! How fabulously autumnal! With visions of smokey bonfire flavours and that lovely sharp tang you get with pumpkin flavours, we dug in our pockets for the £2 required (a little steep for a stall cupcake, but it sounded so great we thought it would be a bargain). The guy running the stall hadn't actually tried it yet, but was about to sink his teeth into one as we arrived. We can only wonder what his response to it was. 

But before we talk about flavour, we have to mention a bit of a pet peeve of ours you may have noticed from our previous blog entry. No box. Ok, so they included a paper doily. Which was a nice touch, but the paper doily was no excuse for the cake being just put in a plastic wrapping (not even a flat bottomed bag!) so we had to carry it around all day like a bleedin' newborn. Luckily the cream didn't smoosh up in the wrapping. 

Right, now we've got that out of the way, we need to move on to the next problem. It looked a bit boring. Which isn't a massive issue, because grown up, boring looking cupcakes can be seen as elegant (although we prefer ones that look like cartoon pictures by a five year old, with lots of glitter and nicely piped icing). But this one had icing that had clearly just been spooned on and some half hearted pistachio (why not pumpkin seeds by the by, it would have kept with the theme far more!). It looked like the cupcake equivalent to water crackers. Yeah they're minimalist, but we prefer sparkles thanks. Or at least a small flag.

On the taste side of things, we actually had to double check what the flavour was. We'd been really excited about this one, thinking it was a truly unusual flavouring. But firstly, the 'cream cheese' frosting, didn't taste anything like cream cheese. It tasted like soap. We decided that this was probably down to too much icing sugar being used, an easy mistake to make but it was cloying and quite unpleasant. The cake itself tasted of carrot cake, so much so in fact that we got SJ's sister to come and do a blind tasting so we could see what she thought. Like us, she was pretty sure it was carrot cake. Which was nice for her, she loves carrot cake. But since we were expecting pumpkin flavours, we were seriously unimpressed. Saying that, even though the cake had been carried around all day, it still tasted fresh, with great texture. Overall we gave it 13/30. It would have got more if we'd thought it was a carrot cake, but Reader, it lied. IT. LIED. 


3. HUMMINGBIRD BAKERY'S CARAMELISED NUT CUPCAKE


Oh. My. God. We want to live in The Hummingbird Bakery. We want to bathe in the Hummingbird Bakery icing. We frankly, quite like it.

Walking in, the décor was lush. It was like seeing where good cupcakes go after they die. Lovely wallpaper, a calming atmosphere, a glowing pregnant woman behind the till. And the cakes! Wow. They looked like you could have got them from Tiffany's, like they were carved from clouds. They were a bit pricey, but for what looked like luxury items, it was a brilliant deal. Plus, even though we personally ate in, we noticed that they provided individual cake boxes should we have wanted them. Heaven! 

The choices were sensational, but we decided on the caramelised nut flavour because it looked so shiny and it was the 'Taste of The Day'. The nuts were golden in their caramel casing, the icing fluffy and soft. When we cut it in two, the sponge slid apart like Moses parting the sea. And the taste. Oh man. The taste was so glorious that it left us speechless, our eyes wide like saucers. It passed SJ's goosebump taste. They were so wonderful that they made us think of childhood Christmases, sugar plum fairies and  bedtime stories about royal banquets. They were really generous with the icing and nuts and in the buttercream, there were tiny flakes of caramel which melted on the tongue with an electrifying crackle. And best of all, although the icing was super sweet, it managed to not be sickly! For the first time, we awarded a cake 10/10 for price, and it ended up only being marked down on price (because it was pretty pricey) and staff (because they didn't really make any effort with us).

4. COX, COOKIES AND CAKES BANOFFEE MAN CAKE


When we first talked about doing a cake blog in SoHo, the sin district of London, Cox, Cookies and Cakes was one we knew we had to try. We'd walked past it many times and had seen the queues of people buying rude cakes and the dance beats streaming from it. Patrick Cox, the fabulous shoe designer, started the firm, and we are so so glad we did. Cox Cakes is like the Sex and the City of the cupcake world. It's risqué, camp, urban and utterly charming. When we walked in, we were greeted by the (frankly adorable) server who donned a pvc studded apron and made great recommendations. Unfortunately, they were out of their famous mint chocolate c**k cakes, so we decided to go for a banoffee man cake instead. It was gorgeously decorated with fudge bits around it and the pink chocolate torso poking salubriously out of the saucy icing. We were slightly outraged at the £4 price-tag but our shock was MUCH lessened when the server told us we got a free hot coco each for eating in, served elegantly in tall shot glasses. If you look at it that way, for two drinks and a cake, £4 seems paltry. The cream was particularly wonderful, whipped cream cheese tasting with a buttery edge. We couldn't taste much in the way of banana, but we didn't really care. The cake had style, it tasted wonderful and the texture was to die for, and just eating in the shop was an out of this world experience. Patrick Cox is one of our new heroes, he's clearly put his stamp on the place and we're so glad he did. At 27/30, he was our winner for the day (and props to the server, who got the place a score of 10/10 for staff!)


Plus of course, I was even tempted into bringing a cake back for the lad, which he hugely enjoyed...Bravo Cox, Cookies and Cakes. Your naughty cakes have brought joy into our hearts and fat into our arteries.


5. GREGG'S CHOCOLATE CHILLI CUPCAKE AND HALLOWEEN CUPCAKE


As you might recall Reader, we are very interested in finding a cake that's more available to the masses nationally, one that you can try whether you live in London or Liverpool. So we always make sure we test a high street variety. This week, we decided upon Gregg's. After all, they make a damn fine cheese and onion pasty, so why wouldn't they make great cupcakes? We were excited by the prospect of the chocolate and chilli cakes in particular, with thoughts in our minds of the glorious film Chocolat and Heston's brilliant creations. Then, we noticed that there was a special deal on where you could also get the Halloween cupcakes (in orange and purple) for 70p a cupcake! So, loving a good deal as we do, we got one of each.

Reader, we've never been so gutted over a cupcake before.

The service, first and foremost was dreadful. The server didn't know what cakes we were talking about, nor about the deal, then tried to shove them into a far too small paper bag (they're cream topped for crying out loud!) before we intervened and begged him to put them in a box. From the way he acted you'd think it was the maddest idea ever.

Now when we got them home, we got the chance to really look at them. Well, the past the pretty test at least. They were nicely piped, unusually decorated and we liked the novelty of the colours and flavour ideas. That's about where the good things end.

We'll start with the lesser of two evils, the Orange Halloween cupcake. Well, for a child, who likes bright things, this cupcake might work. But the icing is acidic tasting and extremely artificial, with a sharp overly sherberty taste to it. If we were kids, this was a cake that would probably have ended up mashed in our hair rather than settled in our bellies. The sponge was slightly salty and dry and even the gummy worm on top tasted of bland sadness. Saying that, it might keep a child entertained for a few seconds. And at 70p, it's not that big a deal if they don't eat it. We wouldn't recommend trying it though, it tasted of cheap penny sweets, the kind that you find at the very bottom of the cinema pick n mix bag after you've eaten all the gummy worms and quality street and you can't remember why you got them, because they even LOOK poisonous.

 And now for the second one. Reader, a cupcake has never made me feel physically sick before. This one did. The cake was ridiculously hard to cut, which is never a good sign. And as soon as we put the thing in our mouths, the reaction was visceral. Words like 'argh!' 'No!' and 'Wrong!' were bandied around. We could only compare the flavour to a misguided pizza attempt, or mouldy monster munch. Not only did the cake contain chocolate and chilli, but also red pepper and lime (???) and for some reason, the makers had decided that rather than combining the chocolate and chilli in the sponge and then making like a chocolate chilli ganache for the icing, the'd make a dry, almost sandy chocolate sponge with an icing of chilli, red pepper and lime. It was so wrong. Naughty Gregg's. Naughty. 70p may be cheap, but it got 0/10 on our scale. Why? Because you should have been paying US to eat that monstrosity. In fact, it was so awful that our faces couldn't even possibly show how terrible it was. We had to ask a friend's cat to come and do it for us. So here are our scores, and Oscar the Cat's reaction on our behalf.

Next time on our cake travels, we'll be testing Department stores in London for their cake stakes!

Sugary kisses
Ash and SJ
X           X

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A week to weep in

Reader, a truly terrifying thing happened at the beginning of this week. My younger brother went off to uni. Now, this was scary for a number of reasons.

1) He left his room a complete and utter pit. My brother is the sort of teenager who owns t-shirts that can stand up on their own, shoes that even the cat won't rub itself up against, empty casserole dishes that he's used to make a sort of supernoodle-pasta-bake and then never taken out of his dwelling and random receipts for cheese puffs and cigars just thrown everywhere. Since he left, we've been in a fit of cleaning, which has taken a whole week and still leaves a lot to be desired.

2) To my knowledge, when he left he'd never a) cooked himself a meal with veggies that weren't previously frozen and b) had yet to work out how to use the washing machine and tumble drier. However, somehow, the day he got there, he helped his new housemates make a veggie curry. Which he ate. He has also never eaten anything I've ever made with veggies in. And when mum called earlier he couldn't talk because he 'had a wash on'. OMFG,

3) For a Lahndahn lad, he's not very streetwise. He went out jogging at 2am once and got pelted with eggs. Yeah. I know.

4) He has never had to properly budget before, apart from 'what shall I spend my Christmas money on? Games? But which games? Ah the decisions!'

5) He's not the most organised lad in the world. He famously once got kicked off a train in Bristol, and had his ticket taken off him because he didn't think he needed his young person's railcard as proof. He's also lost so many oyster cards, we were pretty sure somewhere, someone was taking full advantage of his student discount (of course, we then found all 3 cards in his room while cleaning it...)

6) The scariest thing of all though, was that I thought I'd be massively cool with him going. 'Peace and quiet!' I thought. 'Heaven!' I was looking forward to coming home to a clean house, no one interrupting my TOWIE watching time, and nicking any treats I got myself from the fridge. I was pretty sure I'd be waving him off with a skip in my step and a song in my heart. But the second I hugged him goodbye, I started welling up. After all, he may be 6'2 and built like a boxer, but he's still my baby brother and the thought of him having to be a grown up was pretty devastating. I managed to hold myself together until he got into the car, then flood of tears set in. The Lad, cruelly, thought it would help the little bro to see that I was sad to see him go, so picked me up (in my dressing gown might I add) and dragged me into the road. Tosser. I'm dealing with it a lot better now, especially since we've had frequent calls from the brother telling us what a fab time he's having and how much he loves uni and his housemates. Plus, he's coming back this friday, which I think probably means he needs money.

After all the stress, it was lucky that my mother, my nan and I had planned to go to a health spa. It was largely for my gran's birthday (but also somewhat of a treat for me and mum, let's face it) and woah. Pure awesome. We had three days of being pampered in the luxurious surroundings of Ragdale Hall, where we were massaged, moisturised, sauna'd and steamed within an inch of our lives. We literally didn't have to lift a single finger for the duration of our stay (apart from to ask for more butter for our home made bread at dinner). While we were there, it was proved, yet again, what a hilarious lady my Grandmother is. She's an Irish lady, and while I'm not at liberty to disclose her age, just be advised that she looks fantastic for her years. And she's hysterical. She came out with some complete classics during the stay, so for your reading pleasure, here are a few of them.

1) On the way there, we stopped off in a rest stop for lunch and some magazines. My nan went 'Oh, Ash, I'll get you some sweets', Me: 'Don't worry about it nan, I'm fine, really', 'Oh no, I'll get you some, just a couple', 'Really Nan, I'm fine, I don't want to pile on weight while we're there', 'I'm getting them now!' When we got to the room, she told us that she didn't want any, and made us take big handfuls, before popping them in her bedside cabinet. Then, as soon as the lights went out for bed, we heard a rustling noise. She was only dipping into them when she thought we wouldn't notice! Well, I know where I get that from now.

2) On the first night, we popped on the telly. The first thing on was a sort of 'accident and emergency' reality show/documentary and at that moment there was a bloke on who'd 'fallen' onto a loo brush. Bristles first. Just as the nurse was saying how cringe it all was, my nan piped up with 'Was it as part of a game?'. I could only reply with 'Yes Nan. Well, sort of.'

3) My nan is a very generous woman, and as the car was being loaded up, she was in the gift shop trying to find a pressie for my little cousin Daisy. I went to fetch her and she said 'Oh, good, I was just trying to find you a little bracelet as a present'. Knowing that she's actually on rather a tight income, and noticing that the gift shop was VASTLY over priced, I wouldn't let her get me one, but she was so determined that she started pointing out everything in the shop, going 'Do you want that?'. Including a dummy set (she thought it was a key ring), a pair of men's slippers and at one point, an ornamental statue that wasn't for sale. Bless her.

4) She's also a woman who knows the brilliance of good luggage. When she opened up her (three!) bags, she showed us the many other bags inside them she'd decanted all of her things into as a form of organisation. My nan loves a good bag. This resulted in much hilarity. On the first day, she lost a bag in between all the other bags. On the next, she got worried that the cleaning lady would sit on her bags, or move them, so she made a sort of bag mountain behind the table. On the last day, she realised that she somehow had one extra plastic bag, so she spent ages deliberating on how to put it to best use, before placing a single water bottle in it and looking immensely pleased with herself. She then proudly put the little plastic bag next to all the luggage for the bellboy to take down, before we told her that it would probably make his life a bit difficult and she grudgingly put it inside one of the main bags.

It was, all in all, a brilliant few days. Which made it especially hard to come back home, especially since the day after the day after we got back, I came down with the most dreadful flu, that had me stuck in bed all day, surrounded by kleenex and day nurse. Luckily, it was only a 24 hour thing and now I only have a bad case of the sniffles. Helped along by a lot of banana loaf and a day of board games with The Lad and two of our wonderful friends from university.

Ok Chaps, that's all for now!
Hope you're enjoying this mad October sun we're having!
Ash
x