Draw a painting from a description

As part of our seminar on listening skills today, we had a volunteer describe a painting she was looking at, and we all had to draw it ourselves.

Here’s my drawing:

Drawing a painting based on a verbal description. Can you guess what it is?

We were aiming for this Picasso painting, with which I was not previously familiar:

Actually, my rendition is not too bad. The clarinet player is almost right. I don’t think the left-to-right aspect was clearly explained as I think most people drew it like I did.


My audiobook published – Chasing the Dragon, by Nicholas Kaufmann

Cover artwork for audiobook Chasing the Dragon

As mentioned a few months ago, I’ve been taping an audiobook for Iambik Audiobooks, a company that grew in the fertile soil of Librivox, where I have a few titles and many more chapters.

A good number of hours ensconced with the text and my trusty Zoom H2, and huge number more hours editing, and sterling effort from a team including a proof-listener (thanks Diana!), artwork, technical and post-prod directors, and hand-holder-in-chief Gesine Kernchen, brings the project to a close.

It’s now available for sale here. You can get it in an iPod friendly format or DRM-free honest-to-goodness plain and simple MP3s. Payment via credit-card or Paypal. Over three hours of me speaking direct into your earhole, swearing, talking blood and guts, doing a brief Morgan Freeman impression, jonesing, going on heroin flashbacks… G’wan, you know you wanna.

Oh, and the story is ace too. Big shout out for its author Nicholas Kaufmann. The text grips you from the start – get more than about a third into it and you will probably find your life on hold until you’ve finished it. The characters are strong and vivid and you are rooting for the protagonist so hard it hurts – despite her many flaws and the sea of destruction around her.

Interestingly, it seems the audiobook edition is the cheapest way to get hold of this story in the UK! (You can get it in print on Amazon here and as a Kindle edition here.

Nottingham restaurants I like

I have been asked twice in the last few months for restaurant recommendations in Nottingham, and have been thinking I should maybe start reviewing the trips we make. Eating out is increasingly one of our leisure activities, as funds allow, and as time is short for cooking these days. Nottingham offers a huge range of restaurants in every price category.

We have had a number of restaurant meals since I resolved to start writing reviews, and, erm, no reviews yet. So I thought I would write a list as a warm up. This is non-exhaustive, and I am sure I will miss out loads of places we like in my haste to write something – anything!

Local to us in Sherwood

Sherwood’s restaurant scene is one of the key reasons we chose this awesome suburb when we bought our house. There is such a glorious range of eateries just a few hundred metres from our front door, and as often as not you can just turn up and eat at any of them without booking on those nights when the Hob Fairy has deserted you.

La Capanna – lovely Italian food, pasta and meat dishes mainly but I see they have started doing pizza as well. Regular specials and a permanent menu. Have the stroganoff if it’s on the board, otherwise I almost always have the pâté con crostini and the tagliatelle chef special. House wine is in litre bottles, which is sometimes a surprise.

Le Mistral – small and friendly French restaurant chain operating in a few counties near here. Good wine list. Small, tasty menu. Good value.

Rajah – our local curry house. V tasty. Good for veggies too.

Up in the other direction from home, on the edge of Mapperley Top, is the Bread and Bitter, fab pub with food, and definitely in the category of “should go here more often.”

Panda  – not the best food in the world but cheap and tasty and just right for when it’s Chinese you fancy.

City centre

Yammas – P’s sister had her birthday in their upstairs room, and we’ve been itching to go back since. Greek, meze style restaurant, food lovely, not too pricey, good and quick for a pre-cinema bite. On our last visit they did try and get us to order a little more food than you strictly speaking need, ie more than one meze main per person, but backed off when we said we were in a hurry and on a diet. (less convincing when you have puddings)

French Living – definitely my favourite of the French restaurants in town, but I tend to find it a little on the pricey side as I get carried away in the wine pages. Other options are Petit Paris and the other Nottingham Le Mistral, but by choice for me it is French Living. There is a really authentic French vibe about the place and all the staff are fluent French speakers, which gives me a little chance to show off slightly. It’s often the place we go ahead of a French trip to get P back in the mood of speaking French.  Open lunchtime and evenings, and although every time we have eaten there has been as a walk-in, we are always made to feel as if we were lucky to have got a table without booking.

Aubrey’s Creperie – great for lunch or an early, pre 6pm dinner, this creperie is valiantly trying, almost single handedly, to regenerate the seriously faded West End Arcade. They have super crepes, French cider, will cater gluten free or vegan if asked, and have delicious food. The place is tiny, and it sometimes takes a while to get fed, but it’s worth the wait.

Erm, right. List to be continued.


Veggie and vegan recipes in my repertoir

A twitter friend is asking for veggie and vegan recipes as he seems to be contemplating a veggie month.

I’m by no means veggie, but we try and have two meat-free evening meals a week.

Here are some of the things we eat.  (These are on the pink cards in my card index meal planning box… that has pretty much been gathering dust for the last month.) Many of these things are categories rather than specific recipes.

Pie.  Onion or mushroom and stilton.

Quiche. This old Jewish recipe is a particular fave. But I also like quiche that’s mostly tomato – spread tom purée on the bottom of the pastry case before adding the rest of the filling for more tomatoey oomph.

Patates yahni me ellis – a fab greek potato stew, dead simple, store cupboard ingredients, packed with flavour, also vegan.

Dahl. Amongst the first things I blogged about here – the recipe is around halfway down the page. Vegan. I’ll confess, I’m not a huge pulses fan, and I often struggle to eat an entire plate of lentils of any sort of cooking, but dahl is pretty good. As is hummus, which is easy to make yourself, especially if you start with tinned, cooked chickpeas.

Soup.  Leek and potato à la Julia Childs, I made a lot after seeing Julie and Julia. But caution – the recipe calls for parmesan rinds, and if it’s called parmesan, it’s not veggie! (this also means many pestos are surprisingly not veggie.) Other soups that go down well are mushroom, roasted tomato,  things with those little tiny pasta pieces like orzo, and things made with that bag of mixed things in the pulses aisle called soup mix, things like lentils, pearl barley and split peas in.  Pea soup is also a good one, but I usually make pea and ham, so that’s not a veggie night one.

Pasta bake, eg this Simon Hopkinson special that needs you to get almost every saucepan dirty. (Srsly, read the recipe. A saucepan for heating the milk. One for making the roux. One for cooking the pasta, along with a sieve and a bowl.  An oven dish, another bowl)

Noodle salad with asian peanut dressing. This was on the meal plan for this week, and the ingredients are slowly rotting, uneaten, in the fridge still.

Things many veggies are sick to death of, as they are often the only choice. Mushroom risotto. Stuffed peppers. Stuffed mushrooms.  All nice things to have occasionally, however.

Definitely experiment with the grains: couscous, pearl barley, bulghar wheat or quinoa. All need cooking with something like stock to stop them being boring, but you can use this pilaf recipe with any of them, or rice.

Experiment with interesting vegetables, eg fennel.

Make your own pizza.

Roast tomatoes are awesome with anything – how about grilled halloumi and sweetcorn fritters? Or with boiled lentils, which have been jazzed up as follows: finely chop an onion and garlic and soak in red wine vinegar as the lentils boil in stock. Add a dollop of sweet chilli sauce and stir through the lentils.

Stir fry.

Any kind of salad, but we like Greek salad especially.

Fritatta. Omelette.

Roasted aubergine curry, eg this one from Come Dine With Me.  (This, along with the stuffed marrows I’ve done variously, are things that I have cooked and then for some reason not been able to face eating!)

PGCE students as vectors of disease

So, it’s well known that people who work or study in schools or other educational institutions get a lot of coughs and colds. In universities it’s known as Freshers’ Flu, and everyone gets it shortly after Freshers’ Fair.  Essentially a large group of people from diverse areas all meet and exchange bugs, and everyone gets ill.  In schools its the same. All the children have the whole summer to travel the country, go on holiday, and visit family, picking up all the cough and cold bugs they can, which then get pooled back in the school.

And PGCE students? We’re an interface between the two communities. We spend all week picking up the bugs from the children, then on Monday mornings, 250 of us meet back in one air-conditioned lecture hall to share learning about learning, to share best practice, and to co-mingle the bugs from all the secondary-age children in three counties into one big pool of infection.

Seriously, stay away from us. We’re diseased.

Cough. Cough. Sniff.