Look outside at the raincoats coming, say OH

August has been a pretty miserable month, weather-wise, hasn't it? There's just been So.Much.Rain! So on my bus journeys to & from work each day I've been trying to remind myself that summer isn't quite over yet. And what better way to do that than to listen to music that makes me think of warmer days!

One band in particular that always makes me think of summer is Vampire Weekend. Their first album (also called Vampire Weekend) came out in 2008, the same year that Andrew & myself first became a couple and the first summer that I spent a lot of time in Exeter. On this visit he introduced me to Vampire Weekend and they fast became the soundtrack to that summer. Now every time I listen to them I'm reminded of sunbathing on Exmouth beach, drinking milkshakes from Shaker Maker & spending lazy mornings in the box room of Andrew's student house with the sun shining through the window. Ahhh those were the days...

The Cornershop by Lucy Sparrow

This weekend we headed over to Bethnal Green to visit Lucy Sparrow's The Cornershop - an installation inside an unused commercial space. From the outside it looks like your normal corner shop, but when you step inside you will notice something very special... everything on sale is made entirely of felt!
Using roughly 300 sq meters of felt and taking about 7 months, Lucy Sparrow and her assistant made everything in the shop completely by hand - all 4,000 items! And everything in the shop is for sale. A lot of items have already been snapped up by earlier birds but we managed to bag ourselves a packet of McVities Rich Tea biscuits (see above) which we can't wait to get our hands on when the exhibition finishes! My family are big tea drinkers, and even more so, we're a family of biscuit dunkers. There is always a packet of Rich Tea biscuits on the coffee table in my parent's house!
There was so much to see that I couldn't help but take hundreds of pictures, so I apologise in advance for this picture heavy post... But if you can - go see it for yourself! The exhibition is on every day from 10am until 7pm and ends on August 31st (so you've still got a weekend to get over there!).

Boston, Harvard and back to New York City

I forgot to include this in my last post, but whilst in Boston we also paid a visit to Mike's Pastry, which if you're ever in the city you HAVE to check out! And when you get there, treat yourself to a Cannolo. It can get very busy, and there are often long queues, but the pastries are so worth it! We picked two Cannolis (a hazelnut & a chocolate chip) and a Lobstertail to share - they were delicious!
The next day we headed for Cambridge, Massachusetts to visit the famous Harvard University. The University's main campus is centered around Harvard Yard (pahk the cah(r) in Hahvuhd Yahdand oh what a pretty one it is, especially in the snow.
We explored the campus on our own, until we got to the John Harvard statue (below) where we were able to listen in on a tour, which was lucky as we learnt from the guide that there are 3 lies to the statue:

1. It isn't John Harvard. The man that modelled for the creator was actually Sherman Hoar. There are no living representations of John Harvard.
2. John Harvard wasn't the Founder. In fact, Harvard didn't even attend the College. He was the first major benefactor and donated half of his estate & books (over 400) to the University.
3. It wasn't founded in 1638. The University was actually founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

The statue is one of the best-known landmarks of the campus and every day students rub his toe for good luck, so obviously we did this too - tourists, eh!
After a quick visit to the Harvard gift shop, where there were about 1,000 different variations of a "Harvard" t-shirt, we headed back to Boston to get our train back to New York City.

When we arrived we had some time to kill before checking in to our next Airbnb accommodation, so we wandered over to the Flatiron District to see another incredible landmark of NYC - the Flatiron Building. When it was completed in 1902 the Flatiron (originally called the Fuller Building) was one of the tallest buildings in the city and was considered to be "a groundbreaking skyscraper".
When it was time we jumped on the subway to Williamsburg, our home for the last couple of days of our trip. In the diary Andrew kept, he mentions here that "Vicky was moaning about being hungry", which is nothing new, but we found an awesome little place called Action Burger just down the street from where we were staying. This place prides itself on being "America's first comic book/sci-fi themed restaurant" - and it was pretty geeky (all the walls were decorated in pages from the owner's duplicate collection of G.I. Joe comic books. His DUPLICATE collection!! That's more than one collection of a hell-a-lotta comics.) but they did good burgers. And we do like good burgers!

Other posts from Boston, MA:

Boston: The State House, Freedom Trail and Sandwiches

Recipe: Ribena Macarons

The Great British Bake Off started again last week (woo!! yeah!!) and as I haven't baked in so long I thought I'd share with you a recipe that I've made a few times but never actually gotten around to sharing - oops! So allow me to introduce you to my...
Ribena Macaron Recipe
Yes, y'heard right, Ribena macarons! And they are gooood. Do you remember the recipe I shared last year for Ribena Cupcakes? Well afterwards I had some leftover Ribena buttercream and decided to experiment with it as a filling for macarons, and, well, it was a revelation. A beautiful discovery. A life-changing moment!

For the macaron shells you will need:
  • 160g egg whites (approx. 3 large eggs)
  • 108g caster sugar
  • 192g ground almond
  • 288g icing sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • food colouring optional

For the Ribena buttercream you will need:
  • 2 tbsp Ribena cordial
  • 3 tbsp blackcurrant jam
  • 100g butter
  • 185g icing sugar
1. To start, prepare the macaron shells by sieving the icing sugar and ground almond together in to a large bowl. Throw away any large bits that are leftover in the sieve.

2. In a separate, very clean (completely free of any grease) bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Then add the caster sugar slowly and gradually while still whisking. The mixture should start to become thick & glossy, and should you be so inclined to try, remain firmly in the bowl when you turn it upside down! It does? Hurrah!

3. Once ready, gently incorporate the beaten egg whites with the dry ingredients using a spatula and carefully work the mixture to press out the oxygen from the whites. Do this until you have a smooth mixture, but don't do it for more than 5 minutes! Preheat the oven to 160°C.

4. Next, pipe the mixture on to a sheet of greaseproof paper with 2cm circles drawn on for guidance, or one of those fancy silicone mats that already have the circles in place, on a baking tray. I have one of the said fancy mats but sadly do not have a piping bag & therefore use the free-style method of "using a spoon & plopping it in the circle". This works ok too, you just wont be getting those fancy smooth macarons that you see in Laduree (sorry).
5. Once all the mixture is in place, lightly tap the baking sheet a few times on the surface, this removes any excess air bubbles, then leave to one side for about 30-60 minutes. They'll be ready for the oven when they have a skin.

6. Next, bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for 8 minutes. However, if the macarons are still wobbly after this time, bake for a further 3-4 minutes.

7. While they are in the oven, prepare the Ribena buttercream filling. Start by beating the butter until it is soft & fluffy and then gradually add the icing sugar. Finish by mixing in the blackcurrant jam & Ribena cordial, but do the latter slowly to ensure the icing is smooth not runny. If needs be, add more icing sugar.

8. When ready, leave them to cool on the baking tray before carefully removing them. Then pair them up, add the filling and eat!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did, and if you ever happen to give them a go yourself, I'd love to hear what you thought of them :-)