Well, that was a slightly longer break than I'd intended! I can't believe it's actually over a month since I last blogged, but life rather Got Too Much for a little while (and we also had the usual faff of setting up the internet -- why do these things always take SO LONG??). I had a great holiday in Rhodes: relaxing in the pool...
... enjoying the beautiful scenery ...
Although I think my favourite meal of the holiday has to have been the octopus which my half-brother caught (using a rather fearsome looking spear gun) in the bay which lay at the bottom of our garden. Not something I'm used to in Oxford! There's something so special about a lazy meal outdoors under a blistering blue sky, with the sea lapping away and the sound of cicadas on the breeze. Since I've been back I've tried my hand at recreating a few of the simpler dishes we ate there, although it's never quite the same at home. One of my favourites for a starter or a light lunch is rocket with figs and parma ham, drizzled with balsamic vinegar (admittedly all the better when the figs are from a tree at the bottom of the garden, perilously claimed by clambering along the rocks like a mountain goat, whilst trying not to be tripped up by the *actual* wild goats prancing about the hillside). Watching my dad whiz up some black olive tapenade also inspired me to have a go at making my own for the first time, which I did with the aid of Clotilde Dusoulier's wonderfully easy recipe from her delightful book Chocolate & Zucchini (based on her equally brilliant blog. I also highly recommend her foodie guide to Paris, which skirmishofwit and I used on our trip to the French capital last December).
I made the tapenade as part of a selection of canapes for Our Very First Dinner Party at the New House, and I must admit I'm rather proud to say it proved popular. Yes, that's right, I've moved in, and the house is slowly starting to feel like home. At the moment I'm just awaiting the arrival of a new double bed and a chest of drawers (the landlord obviously has No Conception of the amount of closet space a girl requires). And this morning my mum brought the last load of my stuff from home, so I now have my posters, my books, and all the various bits and pieces that really make a room feel like mine. All I need to do now is finish unpacking... I'm really enjoying settling in, both to the house and to the new area. Although it might sound silly to anyone who knows Oxford, and how small it is, relatively speaking, I barely knew St Clements at all (in fact, I'd rarely made the journey over the Magdalen Bridge...), so it feels quite exciting to have a new space to explore. I'm already starting to find new restaurants, and a new pub has just opened down the road which I'm looking forward to trying.
The past couple of weeks have been busy, with getting back to the swing of things in the library (today I was working in the New College Archives, transcribing a diary from the 1680s -- great fun!), but I've also managed to fit in a couple of trips to London. The weekend before last I went with friends to see A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse. I was particularly excited about this, as I had actually tried to book tickets alongside my reservations for Life Is A Dream (Dominic West!! *swoon*) and Red, but it had sold out almost immediately -- perhaps due to the casting of Rachel Weisz as Blanche DuBois. So when a friend had a couple of tickets going spare for the penultimate performance, I was all too keen to snap one up. It was my first trip to the Donmar (previously I had only seen their Donmar Westend season at Wyndham's), and I really loved the theatre itself, so I'm looking forward to going back in November for more reasons than just Mr West's presence (*cough*). As for the play itself, I've never actually read it, nor seen the famous film version (although now I want to do both!), so in some ways I guess it was good to see it without too many preconceptions. On the whole, I thought it was a great production: the cast in general was excellent, and Rachel Weisz was both fragile and feisty as Blanche. I particularly liked Ruth Wilson as Stella. The one disappointment was Elliot Cowan as Stanley. Perhaps this is just my personal taste, but I didn't think he had nearly enough charisma or simply just raw sex appeal, and the scenes between him and Weisz were sadly flat: there was really no chemistry there to spark them into life, and the rape scene lacked the emotional punch it needed to deliver to the audience. This was the only downside, however, and on the whole I really enjoyed the performance. After the show (a matinee), we went to Bob Bob Ricard for a pre-dinner drink (I enjoyed my cocktail which I chose on the sole basis that it involved Earl Grey syrup!), which was atmospheric and wonderfully decorated, and we then went on to Vasco and Piero's for an excellent meal afterwards. Both of these places were new to me, but I'd definitely go back to either. We rounded the night off swaying along in Ain't Nothin' But: The Blues Bar, before catching the Oxford Tube home.
I was back in London last weekend, this time staying with skirmishofwit, for some more good food and excellent company. We and some friends enjoyed lovely Japanese and Italian restaurants in Hampstead, a relaxing stroll on the Heath (I was rather glad to be back to the type of walks which don't require The Boots), and even fitted in some retail therapy. When I turned 21 a couple of years ago, my mum took me to Florence for a city break. I had a wonderful time: I loved the city, and could have spent much longer there. One of my discoveries was the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Tucked away behind an unprepossessing little door, one enters into a spectacular interior, a space which is beautiful in itself whilst also being filled with the most delicious bath products and perfumes. Founded in 1612 as a monastery, Santa Maria is a now must-visit for anyone at all interested in scent. While I was there I bought some of their honeysuckle perfume -- a delicate and unusual scent which is perfect for every day use. My bottle is now running low, so imagine my delight when I discovered recently that They Have A Branch In London. (Also in Paris, in case you're planning a trip). The London shop is on Walton St in South Kensington, itself definitely worth a visit, and another is shortly due to open near to the Royal Academy (yay!). Although the shop itself is not as beautiful as the Florentine original, the charm of the perfumes has not been diminished, and I was tempted by many (I liked the sound of Nostalgia, which claimed to have a hint of petrol -- one of my Favourite Smells Ever ... yes, I know, the strangeness of this has been commented upon -- but a spritz of it almost knocked me out. It was definitely more of a masculine scent -- in fact, on the right man, I think it would be superb. The trouble, of course, is finding the right man). In the end, however, although Tuberose was a strong contender (rather heavier, and definitely more of an evening scent -- maybe next time!), I remained loyal to my Caprifoglio and came away with another extremely pretty bottle to add to my collection:
Well, it's good to be back, and I shall Be A Better Blogger in future: or at least, like Sir W in the aptly named 'Of Resolution' (1600),
'I write thus, I thinke thus, and I hope to do thus'.