Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Charity Shop Gold - Full Metal(lic) Jacket

I almost committed a cardinal sin in the lore of chazzing* yesterday,  I very nearly avoided visiting a charity shop because there's never normally anything decent in there. 

The offerings in the rest of the town were so dire that, in sheer desperation, I gave it a go and, lo and behold, this wondrous gold, spray-painted jacket (cut down from a 1960s green leather coat) was waiting.

 Not everyone's cup of tea but most definitely mine! I handed over my money and walked back happy, my January charity shop fix sorted. 

 To add to my joy I got home to discover a parcel from the Vintage Queen of New Zealand herself, Helga Von Trollop. This paisley maxi skirt was amongst the delights, 

along with these fabularse orange suede platforms. I'll show you the rest soon!

Filigree silver bangle and dragon ring (my beloved Krista), Filigree ring (gorgeous Em), Natural wood bangles (the divine Senora Allnut) and the rest inherited/bought in India or second-hand.

The moral of this tale? Never write off a charity shop no matter how useless, you just never know when you may strike gold - but you knew that anyway, didn't you?

Green leather jacket (£5, Rastafarian homeless charity), Satin maxi and platform shoes (Helga the great),  Vintage Gladstone & tooled leather belt (20p each, Salvation Army jumble sale), Hindu print tee (last seen HERE), Earrings (£1, Walsall market)
It's blowing up a storm out there, time to batten down the hatches and have egg and chips for tea.

See you soon!

* Vix's Black Country slang for going charity shopping.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Baby, I Love Hugh

Hugh being posh TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, in case you're wondering. His recipe for Mazzamurru (a Sicilian tomato and cheese gratin) published in Saturday's Guardian looked just the job for using up the remnants of the delicious Ciabatta loaf Jon made on Friday night.

Hugh's recipe gave qualities for 4, here's what I used to serve the two of us:

1 tablespoon olive oil
100g open textured, slightly stale bread
I x tinned tomatoes 
100g Mozzarella or a similar soft, creamy cheese (I used Brie)
A handful of finely grated hard cheese or Parmesan (I used a mature vegetarian Cheddar)
1 small white onion - peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic - peeled and crushed
A bay leaf
A pinch of sugar
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Sweat the onion in the olive oil in a large frying pan (or in my case, the trusty wok I've had since I was 21) for 10 minutes until translucent.

Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Pour in the tinned tomatoes (crushing them first if you're using whole ones).

Add the bay leaf and a pinch of sugar & season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer and then leave to cook on a very low heat for 20 minutes.

Taste and season if required.

Fill an oven proof dish (Hugh suggests a fairly deep 20 cm square one) with half the tomato mixture.

Add half the bread, cut into 1 inch slices. Press down into the sauce mixture, tearing to fit the dish if necessary.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and season.

Dot half the Brie (or Mozzarella) on top of the bread, add half the grated cheese and then repeat the process by layering the tomato sauce, bread slices, drizzled olive oil, seasoning and both cheeses.

Cook in an oven preheated to 180 °c /350°c /Gas mark 4 oven for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes (if you have the willpower) before serving with a crisp, green salad.

You know what, Hugh, it was delicious and I'm linking it to Ta-Tah Tuesday.

 Mazzamurru's going to be a regular addition to my repertoire from now on.

Me-made top (last seen HERE), Bayeaux tapestry maxi (previously seen HERE)

Right, I'm off to meet Liz and have a rummage around the chazzas for the first time in over a month. Wish me luck!

See you soon.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Agony & The Ecstasy - Travels In Goa Part 3

Dressed and ready to face a scintillating afternoon going through Dad's mind-numbingly complicated finances with the accountant. If coming home is getting back to reality then why is it that I feel so much more alive in India?

Talking of which, here's the final instalment of our trip (I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief ).

Rather than catching the 4.20am Konkani Express train we splashed out on a taxi from Agonda up to the northernmost tip of Goa, a two-hour drive for just shy of £12.

Arambol Beach (December, 2011)
We've been going to Arambol for years, a undeveloped, chilled-out, hippy fishing village backed by cashew farms and coconut groves, often staying for months at a time.We'd heard rumours that it was no longer the laid-back retreat we knew and loved, instead becoming the favoured base for hip Russian ravers & sadly the gossip turned out to be true. We pulled up in the taxi to discover our once peaceful haven literally bursting at the seams.

Our usual guest house was full so we left our bags with the owner and after a couple of hours of searching (the boom in popularity means cheap accommodation is like gold dust) settled on a room in this pink village house for around £3.50 a night. After collecting our bags and a quick change we headed off to the beach.

Man, it was hideous. The sand was strewn with rubbish, beach shacks competing to attract customers by playing deafeningly loud trance music while employees shouted "free sun bed, free sun bed" at every opportunity. What with the endless hassle from hawkers flogging their tat & the bus loads of whiskey-ed up men intent on sexually harassing bikini-wearing Westerners it was almost impossible to relax. Alternative Arambol now resembled the beaches of the North Goa charter tourist belt we'd avoided for years.

After a shower and a sunset drink we headed back to the beach, realising that the once cheap food and drink on offer in Arambol were a thing of the past, many of our favourite restaurants had sold their leases while the going was good and moved on. The waiters were more concerned with dragging passers-by in to fill the tables than to pay attention to the customers already there. Much as we love our music the monotonous beat of the Russian trance soundtrack made conversation nigh-on impossible in many places.

Even worse was that the infrastructure was struggling to cope with the huge influx of tourists , the villagers' water tank was filthy and the stream choked with waste dumped from the nearby shacks, which flowing down the beach into the sea leaving a stinking trail of scum in it's wake.

After four days we decided enough was enough and hopped on a bus back to the south.

Thank goodness we did, too. We made new friends,

 and I was able to get my kit off again in peace.

 We splashed out on a room in this guest house (£5.60 a night).

 It had piping hot water supplied by rooftop solar panels - a real luxury to wash our clothes in after a couple of weeks on the road.

This is as busy as I like my beaches, no sun beds, no hawkers, no hassle, just the locals going about their business,

 and the odd bull in training for a race.

It was surreal to chat to a couple of Brits and discover that the UK was under a blanket of snow and sub-zero temperatures whilst we were basking in 35 °c of sunshine. 

And that was that, our 20th trip to India (and 16th visit to Goa) and despite our beloved Arambol being ruined we still can't wait to go back.

Why do we love it?  (Mostly) beautiful, chilled and unspoilt beaches, culture by the bucket-load, warm & lovely people, the best vegetarian food in the world, sunshine, colour and spice. Paradise comes cheap, too, £20 a day covers all our food, booze, mineral water, Jon's tobacco, transport and accommodation. 

Vintage Bukta leotard (10p, jumble sale) worn with a 1970s Richard Shops denim waistcoat (my friend, Ronnie), 1970s cotton midi skirt by Highlight (YMCA), Candy-coloured platforms (£5, retail), 1950s rose print bag (20p, car boot sale), a heap of second-hand & Indian jewellery and  Murano-esque glass beads (courtesy of the fabulous Em)

Thanks so much  for reading and for your continual support and comments, coming back is always hard but you, the fabulous women of the blogging community, make it so much easier.

See you soon.

Joining the party and linking to Patti's Visible Monday

Friday, 25 January 2013

Freezing & Chillin' - Travels In Goa Part 2

I'm not a winter person, these freeze-your-tits-off conditions will be the death of me. It took me ages to get dressed earlier (mind you, I was up at 4am so I had time to kill). Jon raised his eyebrows at my high-heeled wellies but guess who needed me to hold his hand all the way into town? Yep, the bloke wearing the "sensible" boots.

Anyway, time for part two of our trip.

So, you know how we're not a couple for advance planning? Well, sometimes it can go a bit wrong. We'd intended to spend our second week in the ruined city of Hampi, a seven hour train ride across the border in Karnataka, but sadly there wasn't a seat to be had for love nor money so instead we headed off further down the Goan coast to Agonda.

The last time we stayed here was in 2005. There's me with blonde hair, less than a week before my hip replacement.

Back then this Christian fishing hamlet consisted of little more than a single hut camp, a tourist restaurant and the village store. These days its listed in the Rough Guide and there's beach shacks, guest houses and encampments galore, but as you can see, Benidorm it ain't.

We got the taxi to drop us off on the main road, I sat with the bags under a palm tree whilst Jon walked up the beach in search of accommodation. (Travel tip 1- never to wander around with your luggage, people will know you're homeless and bump up the room rates.)

This was our accommodation, a sweet little beach chalet complete with mosquito net, attached bathroom and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. Jon negotiated the cost down to just over a £5 a night. (Travel tip 2 - don't be afraid to haggle if the room rate is beyond your budget, if you're polite no-one will be offended and it often works wonders).

Beach life means rising with the sun and walking along the shore, watching the fishermen unloading their catch.

Then we'd pop into Reshma's village store for a breakfast of pav bhaji (spicy vegetable curry served with local bread) washed down with a mug of hot, sweet chai. Eating with the locals virtually guarantees delicious, cheap & authentic food, breakfast cost us under 40p each. The shop keeper also sold crisp home made vegetable samosas (at around 12p ) which he'd wrap in newspaper so we could have a picnic on the beach later. 

Our days were spent on the beach, swimming in the warm sea and seeking shelter under the fishing boats, 

and we weren't the only ones.

After watching the sun set we'd pop back to the hut for a shower.

Then eat and drink at one of the many beach shacks,

doing our best not to upset the locals.

 Jimmy B Malcolm (Bob Marley's cousin) held a free concert in the village while we were there.

Don't let that fool you, Agonda is no party place. Most places close at 10pm so it was back to the hut for a rum and cola before bed. Travel tip 3 - always carry a bottle of your favourite tipple in your backpack.

The main road on a Saturday night! Agonda's possibly one of the most chilled out places you'll ever find in India.

Crochet poncho (made by my mum in the 1960s),  Floppy felt hat (the gorgeous Zoe),  1970s wellies (Jumble sale), Hot pink tights (Helga the great), Beaded earrings (Auroville Ashram, Pondicherry)

Still with me? I'll be back with part three shortly.

I think we're having a quiet one this weekend, the snow's falling thick and fast, there's rum in the freezer and the fire's ablaze.

Have a fab weekend & see you soon.