English Breakfast in Nörjske

Tucked away in leafy Edgbaston are three little restaurants that look like they should hardly get any footfall, and yet they stay open. They’re too near to drive, but I wouldn’t want to walk the 20 minutes home in the dark of midnight. The first is Simpson’s, one of Birmingham’s Michelin starred restaurants where Daniel and I celebrated our engagement and the Michelin star makes the trip worth it in a taxi. Next is the Highfield, Roz at TheFoodieCouple has reviewed it and it’s also lovely for a slightly special occasion, a true gastropub where we sometimes take the car to have a drink and a chat on weekday evenings. Finally is Nörjske, one of the strangest little bars there is in the city.

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Yummy breakfast

On Saturday, with the stress and emotion of the wedding six weeks behind us, life began again relatively stress-free, a normality that I haven’t had since last Summer. It was a sunny morning so we walked down to Nörjske for brunch. The whole place feels like it would be beautiful in the winter! Downstairs is a bright little rustic-style deli that’s perfect for the lunchtime take-away crowd, a big selection of British and Scandinavian themed sandwiches and paninis, with Scandinavian products for sale in woven baskets and wooden pallet shelves. An outdoor seating area is ready prepared with patio heating and blankets. Upstairs is very clean, floor to ceiling windows allow so much light in – the white wooden booths look so welcoming. Everywhere is white and bright, with faux-fur blankets and wintery woodland animal cushions.

The brunch menu is not altogether Scandinavian, we had an omelette and eggs benedict. My dish was two little halves of bread roll that were the perfect amount to mop up the two poached eggs, together with crumbled ham hock with a beautiful hollandaise sauce. The omelette was perfectly runny in the middle and looked enormous but tasted so light. It was an indulgence but with our wedding six weeks behind us we basked in the delight of knowing that we didn’t have to be anywhere or talk about anything specific, enjoying an hour and a half of delicious food, laid-back music and a lovely view over St George’s Church.

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Love Letter to Barcelona

This post is adapted from one of my writings on the course at Bournville College. The task was to write about the structure of an interesting building. I remembered my first visit to Casa Milà in Barcelona, in December 2003 ::

“Undulating” is the word most used to describe the roof of the Casa Milà, along with the staircase at Casa Batlló and the beautiful balcony at Parc Guëll. Use it too many times and it becomes boring, Gaudí wouldn’t like that. Standing on that roof, undulating it is not. The bones are on the outside, grey under the clouded sky, and Casa Milà towers over Passeig de Gràcia, not ready to give up his secret. Climbing the stairs, don’t stop to take in the mahogany doors and green-tiled floors on the headphones, it’s not important, it’s not a feeling, keep going, the roof is the prize.

Out in that crisp Barcelonín Winter, they look at first glance like luxurious swirls of ice cream, dancing in the sun, but the chimneys don’t welcome you, with menacing faces and soldier-like regiment softening with every step you take. Touch everything. Lose yourself in the maze of the patterns and the sunshine and the cold and the golden city. The yellow is misleading, it looks warm but the soldiers on the roof say otherwise, staring down at these invading tourists, like the guards of the Milà family tomb, tolerant until they are alone again.

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This was the first piece that I actually got positive comments on, before this I was told I write angrily – but my love-letter to a building showed a sense of belonging there rather than here. How can a building make you feel?

Back to School at 31

Running across the road in the dark in my red suede high heels I know I’m going to be late. I’ve started wearing high heels to work again, at least these are comfortable so I can run. I hurriedly swipe my card at the turnstile glancing at the clock above the canteen and realise I’m ok, the time in my car is wrong. I know it’s wrong but I’m one of these people that needs to be early – it’s a compulsion. Slowing to a confident walk I hop up the stairs to the corridor where my classroom is, a messy ponytail bobbing along behind me, and flicking the fringe out of my eyes as I see my classmates waiting at the end of the corridor. I’m still here before the tutor, the room is still locked.

We’ve both taken classes, after watching back-to-back episodes of the latest Modern Family box-set we realised that we watch a lot of TV. So we got out the Birmingham Adult Education Service catalogue that’s delivered to every house in the city at this time of year, and chose something to do to develop ourselves outside of work. Daniel is taking Italian in the city centre, he already speaks it a bit so it’s more of a revision to lose that rustiness that comes with lack of practice. I’ve chosen Creative Writing, it’s something I really enjoyed as a child and I thought it would be useful for my Chilanga experience.

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Student again…

 

There’s a big mix of ages and backgrounds in the class so it’s always interesting to hear people’s work, and their critiques on other people’s. For some people it comes easily, for others it’s hard to be creative on demand, they need a little longer to formulate an idea before committing it to paper. We’ve had stories about a lost guinea-pig, a woman running a circus single-handedly, and a man that severs his finger but ends up growing human limbs in the soil on an industrial scale. I seem to wave between two styles of writing, one of these is quite essay-based, the other is very much “train-of-thought”. In the creative challenge at the start of the class it’s “train of thought”, over a short space of time, a window into just a few minutes of someone’s life.

Winding back fifteen or even twenty years, at school we were put into different ability groups for the core subjects, I was in the top class for most of them. Spanish out of three, Science was five, and amazingly in Maths I was in Set 1 out of 10! The only fly in the ointment was English, I could never get up to that top set, stuck for five years in Set 2. I still enjoyed creating stories and curiously, they were mainly based in ghosts. I was really into the Point Horror series, the ghosty stories rather than the murder stories. I flirted with Point Romance, which fulfilled a teenage-discovering-myself-slash-romance-slash-physical-intimacy phase, but I always came back to the horror. Even now I can’t read a romancey chick-lit book, I need more substance than the good old will-they-won’t-they. Ghost stories always opened up a realm of impossibility where the impossible did happen. I like to think it was a precursor to my now enjoying more magical realism, or some other seemingly impossible crime or situation that seems completely normal in the novel.

Back to Thursday evenings, I’ve been told I write angrily – that it’s just ranting rather than an interesting story or succinct prose that follows a set formula. I tell myself that I’m out of practice, that years of writing factual essays and professional e-mails and reports have broken away my creativity. But Chilanga : Exported has been going for nearly two years, with a reasonable readership for what I want so there must be something left in my heart. I need to crack that anger, maybe the frustration of losing my creativity is manifesting itself in the very writing I’m creating. Crack it, Katherine…

Where do you draw your ideas for your posts? Are you naturally creative? How do you keep your mind creative?

Birmingham for Under a Tenner

Birmingham is full of little festivals and club nights or street entertainment that you’d never know are there unless you read the right blogs, knew the right people, or remembered that little sticker you saw on the back of the traffic lights as you crossed the Suffolk Street Queensway.  Here are some of the best that we’ve been to this year, all for under a tenner.

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South African fare at the Digbeth Dining Club

  1. Digbeth Dining Club – Every Friday night down at The Spotlight on Heath Mill Road there are street food stalls with a selection of world cuisines from South African springbok and vegan falafel to a New York hot dog and French crêpes covered in sugar. If you’re lucky enough to get down there on the First Friday of the month you’ll find more food and drinks stalls out the back and live music later on. We ate there quite often over the summer, it attracts all ages too, from families with young children, to a safe teenager’s night out and folks in their 50s looking for something different than a restaurant or the theatre. Cost: food costs around six pounds a pop so with a beer on top you’re still looking at under a tenner.
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    City of Colours Festival

    City of Colours / Summer in Southside / Outdoor TV – There are so many outdoor festivals during the Summer. The likes of Moseley Folk Festival and the Jazz festival cost upwards of £30.00 just for a day ticket, so we went on the lookout for some smaller, more unique festivals this year. The Outdoor TV in Brindley Place puts on children’s films for a matinée, and normally runs a theme for the evenings, it also shows the tennis from Wimbledon which had an amazing atmosphere last year when Andy Murray won! The Summer in Southside is an arts festival full of street performances and activities around the Hippodrome and Gay Village area, all completely free. City of Colours was without doubt the best, a one day festival around Digbeth centring on the Custard Factory, full of organised street art competitions and live spraypainting art in the streets. Complete with live music, BMX bike display, street dance competition, this was a complete surprise, we only intended to stay an hour or so but spent six hours exploring and watching the art grow as the day went on. The good news is that it should be back next year with a two-day programme. Cost : a tenner covers a couple of beers and an icecream.

  3. Quiz night at The Queen’s Arms – On a Thursday on Newhall Street, it gets ruthless. We went originally for the 2-for-1 pizza deal but then at 20h00 we discovered they had a quiz, after cajoling our friends, we joined in. A traditional pub with stained-glass windows and high bar stools, this quiz offers a picture round, a double or nothing, a conections round, it’s the perfect quiz package. Cost: a quid for the quiz, the pizza deal and a beers might just keep you under the £10.00 limit.
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    Quiz at The Queen’s Arms

    B-Town / International Dance Festival – In May the International Dance Festival descends onto Birmingham, with paying performances in the Symphony Hall, the Rep Theatre and so on. But there are also plenty of free shows in the street if you know where to look. One very cold night we went out to see B-Town, a  dance-based performance about a post-apocalyptic Birmingham as the sole-surviving city after flooding drowns the rest of the country. Queen Roxy must make the decision to let refugees into the city before the floodwaters rise further. This was simply… brilliant. A collaboration between several local dance schools this was a story that sucked you in despite the cold and the threat of rain. Cost : a fiver for a hot chocolate afterwards.

  5. Exhibitions at Birmingham Museums – All the museums in Birmingham are free, and there is so much going on! The Ikon gives a taste of modern art, the Museum and Art Gallery in Victoria Square houses the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard a rolling programme across the Gas Hall and Water Hall spaces. Out of town there’s Sarehole Mill where you can explore JRR Tolkein’s childhood, Soho House which was home to Lunar Society back in the day, and the beautiful Aston Hall. Cost: £5 maximum per museum.

Our information comes from a variety of sources, the Meetups are great because you get to see a lot of the mainstream festivals in the City like the International Dance Festival and the Colmore Business District Food Festival, and we have a few friends that are close to the artsy scenes in the City, but most of the time you just have to search the blogs (let me know if I’ve missed any!) : I CHOOSE Birmingham · Digbeth is Good · BMAG · Digbeth First Friday · Out in Brum · The Foodie Couple Blog · Brum Review · Brummed Out · Birmingham Student Foodie

#100happydays Days 7 – 13

Day 7 – I was told it was cheating, but I was just so relieved to get those files off my desk at work. Even the little victories at work make me happy, as soon as I know that vessel has sailed it’s like a relief that my part in that shipment is done and finished.

Day 8 – We did some campfire songs at Guides, no matter how horrible a day I’ve had at work they can always make me laugh. They are full of riddles and card tricks they all want to show me. This one was for the Bunny Badge, a version of A Penguin Came to Tea.

Day 9 – We tried the new French patisserie the The Cube on Wednesday, Madeleine. Here’s the yummy plum tart Daniel and I shared with a hot chocolate and a coffee after work.

Day 10 – Looking through my old blog blog from uni, I came across this little vocab gem!

Day 11 – After talking about having a curry all week at work I realised I hadn’t had a proper curry in months. So when a friend suggested it on Thursday I couldn’t refuse, the Balti Triangle really is the best place to indulge!

Day 12 – Saturday and we did a lot of things around the house, so in the afternoon I decided to be all domestic and make some cakes. It’s not really the cakes I was happy about, but the recipe book. It was the same one that my Mom had when I was a child, so the delight in recreating the same recipes from 25 years ago always makes me happy and nostalgic – I wouldn’t dream of using anything modern!

Day 13 – A lazy Sunday morning reading in bed in the sun. The weather’s still lovely at the moment, and hopefully it will stay like that.

Eight Years Later

Do you remember when the internet first came out properly, about ten years ago? Before facebook and Twitter and even before MySpace, at 20 to 22 years-old we were obsessed with Bejewelled, and Celebdaq, and Quizilla quizzes. Which Evil My Little Pony are you?, Which Care Bear are you? Which City should you live in? etc… All seriously, defining issues.

There was a massive thing going round about surveys, you answered the kind of questions that are now freely shared without even realising it in all the social media. So I was going over some old blog-posts earlier today and found one that I did in 2006 – eight years is such a long time ago. I’ve taken the Name and Birthday and where you were born questions out, because they haven’t changed, but I thought it would interesting to see how my answers differ now from back then (new answers in green) ::

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF – The Survey
Your Heritage: Real life: Brummie … Spiritual: Spanish / Birmingham, UK, Europe, the World
The Shoes You Wore Today: Walking boots / Knee-high boots
Your Weakness: Not being assertive enough / Not being assertive enough, strangely still rings true now
Your Fears: Dogs, failure / Losing loved ones, losing my job, running someone over
Your Perfect Pizza: The Works with sweetcorn instead of black olives / Goats cheese and caramelised onions
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: Lose weight / Keep running, decorate the house
Your Most Overused Phrase On an instant messenger: Hmm.. / I never use instant messenger anymore, not even on facebook
Thoughts First Waking Up: Why does my mom have to talk so loudly to my dad??! / Nooooooooo!!
Your Best Physical Feature: Eyes / Eyes, hair
Your Bedtime: Anywhere between 11pm and 1am / Between 22h00 and 23h00
Your Most Missed Memory: ERASMUS / My Dad
Pepsi or Coke: Fanta Naranja…? / Whatever it is it needs to be diet
MacDonalds or Burger King: MacDos! / McDonalds, although I rarely eat them anymore
Single or Group Dates: Single / Single, although I am now happily living with my Mexican now, but still enjoy dinner parties and pub nights with friends
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Nestea..? / Lipton Ice Tea, peach flavour
Chocolate or Vanilla: Vanilla / Vanilla
Cappuccino or Coffee: Yuck neither!! Espresso at a push / Still neither!
Do you Smoke: Only when too drunk to stand.. / Nope, not even when drunk
Do you Swear: Yeah! F*ckin’ yeah! / Try to avoid it, only at very strong emotions, pain, fear, instinct.
Do you Sing: Haha! Only when very drunk! / In the car, in the house, at Guides, cooking, all the time!
Do you Shower Daily: Sometimes even twice! / Always
Have you Been in Love: Yes / Yes
Do you want to go to College: I went. I’d love to go back / I went, the only thing I would want to do again is Erasmus, and study harder for my final exams.
Do you want to get Married: Yes, to the right person.. / Yes, the right person is here and we’re getting married in a year!
Do you believe in yourself: Sometimes… / More than I used to but still suffer from severe lack of confidence at work sometimes
Do you get Motion Sickness: No, thankfully! / If I’ve been on a plane too long, or too many times in a short space of time
Do you think you are Attractive: Not so much at the moment.. / In the face yes, could stand to lose the belly. Keep running!
Are you a Health Freak: I’m hoping to diet and exercise now! / Not really, it’s always a phase, I lost a lot of weight and am managing to keep it off, but it’s hard. Keep running!
Do you get along with your Parents: Everyone gets annoyed by their parents! / There was a very difficult period but we’re all seeing the light now and I’m sure it will be lovely again
Do you like Thunderstorms: Yesssssss! / Yes! Looking forward to seeing them  from the new flat, the view over the city must be wonderful!
Do you play an Instrument: The triangle..? / No, not even the triangle, the easiest of all instruments!
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol: Yes, not much though.. / Yes, lots and lots of beer!
In the past month have you Smoked: Passively at the pub / No!
In the past month have you been on Drugs: Neurofen count? / Wouldn’t dare
In the past month have you gone on a Date: Haha! / With Daniel we went to Oxford, it was lovely!
In the past month have you gone to a Mall: The Bullring rocks! / The Bullring is still brilliant
In the past month have you eaten a box of Oreos: No.. Milk Chocolate Digestives maybe… / No, Oreos, no. Chocolate eclaires, yes.
In the past month have you eaten Sushi: No, fish doesn’t do it for me.. / No, still not a big fan of fish
In the past month have you been on Stage: Pff, not since the Guide’s 40th anniversary do and I had to lead campfire songs! / Err, I don’t think so…
In the past month have you been Dumped: Dumped, no. Shitted on, yes. / No!
In the past month have you gone Skinny Dipping: Me..??! / No!
In the past month have you Stolen Anything: Err.. Not that I can remember.. I think my record was the Loch Ness ashtrays..! / I don’t think so
Ever been Drunk: Y e s . . . / Yes, come on
Ever been called a Tease: In what context? / Still, what is the context? I tease the Guides and the Brownies all the time
Ever been Beaten up: All the time by my sister! / Again, even now in our late 20s early 30s, I still point you in the direction of my sister
Ever Shoplifted: Not to my recollection.. / By accident, once I put a KitKat in my pocket while juggling other bags and didn’t realise until I was halfway down the road!
How do you want to Die: Peacefully as an old lady.. / Peacefully as an old lady
What do you want to be when you Grow Up: The Me that I want to be.. / I’m now grown up, sometimes I’m the Me I wanted to be, other times I’m just an idiot
What country would you most like to Visit: Russia / Russia still, and now Guatemala
Best Clothing Style in a man/woman: Any really apart from townie and kev-like / Grown-up, and nothing beats a sharp suit to make any man look so dapper!
Number of Drugs I have taken: Number of types? 2 / Are we including alcohol and coffee and cigarettes? Then 5
Number of CDs I own: Millions! / Two, the advent of digital music means I got rid of them all when I came home from uni
Number of Piercings: 4 / 4 still
Number of Tattoos: 0 / Still 0
Number of things in my Past I Regret: A great many..! / If we dwelt on all our regrets, life would be very miserable

It’s strange actually to see how most of these questions are now answered on the pages of this blog, or on facebook, or on Twitter. First thought waking up is usually expressed on Twitter. Been on a stage, drank alcohol, sometimes down to the shoes worn today, are found in photos on facebook or Instagram. Goals to achieve, fears and weaknesses are discussed in blogs. Health freak, and believing in yourself comes in what motivational pictures you post on your facebook walls, or find on Pinterest. And again, you only post the pictures that put you at your most attractive, if it’s the eyes or the hair or your figure.

Things move on, and life changes in so many ways, I can see my innocence has been worn away over the last eight years, good for bad for good, it’s all learning how to be yourself!

#100HappyDays

I’ve signed up to the 100 Happy Days challenge, it’s three and a bit months of finding something happy every day, delighting in the small things. Every Sunday I’ll post seven photos of the little things that made me happy each day that week.

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#100HappyDays

I love the Random Moments of Delight challenge, and while I don’t post as often as I should I really could fill the day with the little things that make me smile! We all say we haven’t got time to do what makes us happy, we work all day and then by the time we get to the evening we’re too tired to do anything. We have no active energy to get out the house, to call up our friends because it’s easier to just watch telly than risk bringing your friend down with a little moan or a rant.

So let’s make it more passive, let’s see what happiness happens to you – you can’t get out of work early enough to go to that yoga class, but at lunchtime you went out for some fresh air, filled with the wonderful smell of the bakery that reminded you of your grandparents baking bread and you smile inside and feel so warm with the memory. Passive happiness that we don’t necessarily realise is happening because we’re not laughing, nor do we feel that exhilarating energy or that surge of pride of living.

I sent the link to my Mom, I’m so happy she has signed up too! Sometimes you just need to remember that no matter how stressful life gets there is always something to make you smile, even just on the inside!

I start today, 1st April. So I haven’t even been to work yet, but I’m full of excitement to find my moment for today. The Brownie leaders are taking the Guides on a small trip to a local pet shop for that Bunny Challenge Badge, so I’m full of optimism even now!