Baking, Cooking, Writing

An afternoon in the kitchen

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Lemon Drizzle Muffins. ©nattinatters 2019

Since we moved I’ve only baked three times as we’ve had stuff everywhere. Now we’re able to move things about a little I have the room in the kitchen to cook and bake.

It was my son’s birthday on Wednesday. He lives over 200 miles away. For those of you in the U.K you’ll understand it’s a bit of a drive – up to 4- 4 1/2 hours on a good day. For those of you in the U.S 209 miles probably sounds like something which you may drive regularly.

As we don’t get to see him on his birthday every year now, we travel down to the South to visit him. This year we’re going a day later than we’d usually travel as the dog kennel owner we use has been on her own holiday and doesn’t re-open until tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

Last year I baked a HUGE chocolate cake for him,

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HUGE chocolate cake ©nattinatters 2019

                                          but this year when I asked him he said he didn’t want a birthday cake so I said I’d make some muffins or buns/cupcakes instead. He said some chocolate chip cakes would be nice so I thought I’d do choc chip muffins and also some lemon drizzle muffins, just for a change, as I don’t like tons of chocolate. As it was I forgot to pick up cocoa at the supermarket so he’s now got vanilla sponge with the choc chips instead of double choc. The recipes I used for both were new to me – my usual lemon drizzle cake is one from an old copy of Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book and it’s my cake bible! Over the years I’ve tweaked ingredients, increased, decreased, etc That book is still somewhere in a box so I looked up some recipes online and thought I’d do something new.

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Disappointed to only be able to find a poor quality picture of the cover of the actual book I own.

 

The recipe I decided on was Bakery Style Choc Chip Muffins. You can find the recipe here at Little Sweet Baker’s site. As I was doing these in smaller muffin cases I actually got 24 so the quantity is true to the recipe. The Lemon Muffin recipe I got over at thekitchn – recipe here. Despite using actual muffin cases I got 18 muffins from this recipe. It is likely I made a mistake when converting from American Cups to UK pounds and ounces, despite using a conversion table. ^^I’ve not yet tasted either muffin so cannot let you know how they turned out. The batter mix for both was tasty though so I’m hoping for a positive reaction from my son, his girlfriend and hubby. I’ll update when I can. I always use the juice of fresh lemon to mix with the icing sugar for the drizzle for the lemon cake/s. I first make a simple sugar syrup to pour over the top of the cake/s as soon as they come out of the oven. They look a bit wet and soggy to start with but as the cake/s cool it turns into a crispy, lemony and sugary topping. I then make the drizzle. I save some of the lemon zest I added to the cake batter to either mix in or place on top of the drizzle. It looks pretty as well as tasting mmm! For the choc chip muffins today I made up a thrown together icing to plop on the top! (Classy eh?!) I used a heaped tablespoon of nutella, 2 tablespoons milk and 6 tablespoons icing/powdered sugar. You may need to adjust the quantity of the sugar to get the icing to the right consistency. I then ‘plopped’ it on and used some shop bought triple chocolate curls to decorate. See the pictures below. They’re not my best work due to my current physical constraints – both my hips are being b*tches right now and I’d rather not be spending anytime on my pins, plus my fibro/arthritis is causing manual dexterity issues but this effort was worth it for my son. It takes me a lot longer than it used to do to make all this.

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Choc Chip Muffins topped with Nutella icing and triple choc curls and Lemon Drizzle Muffins. ©nattinatters 2019

As we’re down South for 3 evening meals, we agreed between us that we’d provide one meal each and then we’re out for a birthday meal, which we’re doing on Sunday evening – it’s likely to be less busy. So, I offered to make a steak pie. This is a family and friends favourite. Mr NN threatens divorce anytime we’re in a supermarket and I approach the pie section in the chiller cabinets (for me it’s nice to sometimes eat different pie). I don’t have a written down recipe, it’s just something I make that turns out exactly the same every time (luckily). I use puff pastry as hubby prefers it to shortcrust (another reason I like to have other pies every now and again – variety being the spice of life and all that…!) I’ll share my ‘recipe’ here. This serves 4-6 people, depending how big a meal your family will eat. To give an idea a standard glass pie dish or a sandwich tin will make the perfect sized pie for 3-4. Today I used a flat, square pyrex – only because I think (rightly or wrongly) a square container will travel better than a round pie dish.

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Nat’s Steak Pie ©nattinatters 2019

Nat’s Steak Pie

Ingredients

  • 700g-750g Braising Steak or Stewing Steak (Chuck)
  • 2 Beef Stock Cubes (I use OXO)
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • 1 large Brown onion
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Mixed Herbs
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 10 ml oil (I use light olive oil)

Method

Slice or chop onion, put into a medium-sized pan with the bay leaves and fry gently in oil until the onions have softened. Add the meat and keep stirring until it’s all browned.

Crumble stock cubes into a 1 litre jug and add herbs and tomato puree. Stir it well and then add to the browned meat.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. The time is dependant on the quality of the beef you buy – the higher the quality the less time the meat needs to tenderise.

Leave to cool for about half an hour before making up your pie.

I use pre-bought puff pastry as it takes so long to make it at home, especially handy on days like today when I’m baking too or for busy Mum’s or people working. I used to use a well-known brand but recently the pastry has a sour smell and I’ve not enjoyed the taste so I’ve trialled supermarket own brand pastry. I like Tesco Puff Pastry in either the blocks or the ready-rolled but I do prefer Morrison’s – it is so much more tasty (sorry Tesco). You’ll need 1 small block or 1 ready rolled for a pie for 4 but you’ll need 2 for a pie for 6+

*Note – I do not add flour to my meat when browning in order to thicken the mix as by simmering this mix properly you’ll have a rich thick gravy without the need for it.

I hope if you try it and enjoy it that you’ll let me know. I know it’s a pretty basic recipe but it’s my go-to for family and friend get togethers as everyone loves it so much. You can add other ingredients if you like. I know some people still like **Steak and Kidney Pie or Pudding, or you can add chopped or sliced mushrooms – I’ve done this a few times (variety!) **If you’re going to use kidney then reduce the quantity of beef steak by the weight of the kidney you’re going to use. ^^Just had a taste of both muffins. They taste great!

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Choc chip muffin with Nutella icing and triple chocolate curls. ©nattinatters 2019

 

Cooking, Parenting, Random Thoughts, thought of the day, Uncategorized, Writing

Random Thoughts: Brussels Sprouts

I was just responding to a post about a Brussels Sprouts recipe over at Cooking Without Limits. Thinking about Sprouts made me smile as it also made me think of my son – who is 24 the day after tomorrow.

When he was a toddler he would tell me he didn’t like Brussels Sprouts – “Don’t like Mummy”. There was that feeling, that inner groan as I didn’t want him to be like his father – who eats NO veg (other than potatoes or onions), and also no pasta, rice, cous cous, or fruit – except a Granny Smith’s apple (thank you Granny Smith!)

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Image courtesy of MNN.com

As I’m pretty creative and imaginative I had a lightbulb moment. Thinking on your feet is a prerequisite for being the parent of a toddler! My son loved cabbage. He would eat it raw whilst I was prepping dinner and would eat all of it every meal it was included with. So, I told him that Brussels Sprouts were ‘baby cabbages’. He ate every single sprout!

As I said he’s 24 on Wednesday. Every meal I cook for him which includes sprouts now (not many as he doesn’t live with us anymore) he always eats the sprouts first. Christmas dinner 2018, all the sprouts gone!

This worked on other food items too. Take meatloaf. What does it remind you of? It’s minced/ground meat – usually beef, formed into a loaf with onions, a little breadcrumb, cornmeal or wheatmeal, whichever flavourings your family uses. It’s like a big burger! So, when he sat at the table and told me he didn’t like meatloaf I told him it was ‘Mummy’s big burger’! As he used to go to BK (Burger King) or McDonald’s once or twice a month and usually wanted a burger I reminded him that he liked burgers. That meatloaf was gone in no time!

Baby corn was easy, leeks were giant spring/green onions, chicken burgers were big nuggets, etc, etc.

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I probably did nothing different than any other parent who wants their child to eat as wide a choice of foods possible, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. It just made me smile this evening thanks to the Turmeric Brussels Sprouts post. Other people’s blogs are worth reading.

Just so Mr NN doesn’t moan too much he will now eat watercress, rocket, baby spinach, tomato-based sauces, blanched leeks (only show them the pan or start and stop the microwave almost immediately!) oh and not forgetting some spices! Love you Mr NN :p xx  Until next time! NN

 

 

Book Review, Writing

Book Review – The Girl You Left Behind – JoJo Moyes

I’m wondering where I’ve been for the last X number of years as seem to have missed everything written by JoJo Moyes – including those developed into films/movies ‘Me Before You’  (which I’ve not watched either). Anyway, so this was another one of those paperbacks which was within a bag of randomly chosen paperbacks gifted to me. I think I may well have not been reading romance novels for some time which is why I missed 15+ books.

girl you left behind

So, I’ve now finally read one of JoJo Moyes books. I loved it! I don’t know where it sits within the popularity of her portfolio of published novels, but had a quick peak of it compared to ‘Me Before You‘. On ‘goodreads’ ‘The Girl You Left Behind‘ has a rating of 3.97 stars out of 5 from 117,748 reviewers and on ‘Amazon’ has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 from 1,608 reviews whereas on ‘goodreads’ ‘Me Before You‘ has a rating of 4.26 out of 5 based on 911,255 ratings and on ‘Amazon’ 4.8 out of 5 stars from 9,748. I’d say then that ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ rates almost as highly in popularity as ‘Me Before You’ and if all her other novels rate as highly they’ll be on that ever increasing list of ‘Books I Want to Read’.

Anyway back to the review of ‘The Girl You Left Behind’. I haven’t always been a fan of books which have dual time frames and switch between those times and stories. I get frustrated that I’ve just come to know a character and the placing of their story when all of a sudden I’m with a new character and a new time. I did wonder whether to put this book down but the story of Sophie in 1916/17 occupied France was so captivating I had to keep reading.

Then came the ‘why’? What was the relevance between Sophie in 1916/17 and Olivia (Liv) Halston in modern day London? The quick answer is the painting of Sophie, which infuses the entire book; most especially the modern day conclusion with the feelings art arouses in us all.

The story is full of emotive action; moments in the past where you hold your breath as you wait to see which way the story evolves; Sophie’s inner turmoil around her thoughts and feelings, or lack of, for the Kommandant and his fellow German occupiers, and moments in the present day when you wonder yourself how you would think and feel if you were in the same circumstances as Liv. I don’t like to give spoilers but if you read this book you’ll understand what I mean. This is a story of relationships pared back to their barest; the rawest of emotions exposed – whatever they are – love, hate, anger, desperation. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and page turning right until the end where it gives you just a tiny bump to remind you not to get too blasé about happy endings…(no spoiler intended!) NN

Book Review

Book Review – The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness

This is the concluding part of Deborah Harkness’ ‘All Souls Trilogy’. I reviewed part one here and part two here. I hate writing reviews with spoilers as don’t like this if I’m reading a review when I’m deciding whether or not to read a book – which is why my book reviews sometimes may seem a little empty of story information. I apologise if this includes too little information but it is quite difficult to review these books without discussing actual aspects of the story which would give it away.

book of life cover

To explain a little bit about the story Diana and Matthew are a witch and vampire who meet in Oxford where their relationship develops into one which is illegal in the eyes of ‘The Congregation’ – an assembly representing ‘Creatures’ – Witches, Vampires and Daemons. The story follows Diana and Matthew as they travel widely throughout time, and internationally – bouncing their way between modern Oxford, Medieval London, the U.S.A, Venice and France and back again.

Whilst progressing through time – and the story woven together by the author – the characters lose their way a bit and it seems as though the somewhat original idea of an adult vampire/witch tale stuttered. I think it’s always worth going back to earlier notes for characters in order to ensure they remain true to the character which was introduced when the story began and I did find that lacking. I’m not a published author yet though so who am I to give advice?

There are always going to be parts of a story (or trilogy/box set, etc) which all readers will not agree with and I know there will be people reading this who will wonder how I could say anything positive about it. For me, the reviews I’ve read elsewhere about the second and third parts of this story have been downright nasty. You review the story, the book, not personally attack an author. It takes time to research, write, then edit books (stories). I have no doubt there would have been extreme pressure from the publishers to “get the thing written”. However, Deborah Harkness isn’t a witch. She couldn’t conjure up the third part of the story just because the readers of the first two parts were waiting with baited breath.  Anyway, now I’ve got that particular point out of the way I’ll continue.

For me, out of the three books, this third instalment was my favourite. The magic and depth which seemed missing from the second instalment was suddenly there in glorious technicolour; the traits and aspects I felt which were missing from Diana as a character throughout book two found their way back on to the pages – in other words Diana found (to quote Negan from The Walking Dead) her ‘Beach-ball-sized lady nuts’. (I still need a t-shirt with that quote btw). Sadly, Matthew as a main character did disappoint me. He’s a vampire, and the impression you get from that (I hope it’s not just me here – I’m thinking Angel or Spike from Buffy or Edward Cullen and family from Twilight) are that he’d have traits which would make him vampire-like and some of those are missing, especially as an important figurehead for the family or organisation he represents. That’s all I’m going to say about him as if I say anything more it may give too much away and I have my ‘no spoilers here’ to consider!

What was great about this book was the feeling that everyone had finally gelled as the diverse family they were; family also encompassing the ‘family we choose for ourselves‘; that being the friends who helped Diana, Matthew and the de Clermonts, the Knights of Lazarus and The Congregation bring the story to its conclusion.

There were still odd little moments which irked me but on the whole many of the loose ends were tied up; albeit, some felt a little too good to be true, but on the whole this love story concluded satisfactorily.

I know there are spin-offs being written about other characters from the ‘All Souls Trilogy’ and I’ll read them because, despite a slightly wobbly second instalment, the overall series did come to a (mainly) satisfying conclusion and getting to know some of the other fascinating characters in a more in-depth way seems as though it’d be a good way to spend some of my time. NN

blogging, Writing

Tallest Structures in the World 2019

This post is a little tongue in cheek. Mr NN posted the below image to my personal Facebook wall this morning. He’s the man having to look at the stack of books by my bedside – all are there because they’re at the top of the most wanting to read list – the rest are either still in boxes from the move or not bought yet (my ‘Amazon’ wishlist grows longer as my ‘Goodreads’ list does!).

Anyway, as I’m so full of great ideas I thought it’d be great to work out how tall my book pile would be (on average) based on the ‘Books I Want to Read’ on my ‘Goodreads’ account. The list is currently at 644. It does include those on my bedside stack of 12 but not the 2 books I’m currently reading.

tallest structures

I measured the stack first. This is 12 inches (0.4m). The 2 books I’m reading total 4 inches (total 16 inches =0.4m).

I’m not great at maths. I can do basic arithmetic but I get myself in to all sorts of bother emotionally and lose any sense of humour at breakneck speed when I’m trying to be smart. That’s when I call Mr NN as he’s so much better at it than I am.

This morning I’m on my own so apologies if you read this and come to the conclusion that I’m dumb. I would be grateful if you could share the correct answer if I’m completely wrong.

I think I need to divide the 644 books by the average height of the 14 books (16 inches), thus I get a figure of 40.25. I then multiply 16 inches by 40.25, which gives a height of

I gave up…As you can see I’m rubbish at maths!

To make this easier on myself I decided to base my calculation on the fact that the stack of 12 books (of varying thickness) measured a smidgen over 12 inches so I could just calculate how many feet my books structure would be on that average of 1 inch per book. Thus 644 books would measure 644 inches which, when divided by 12 equals 53.67 feet. I’ll round the figure up to 54 feet just to simplify the figure. Converting this to metres and it totals 16.46 m

The buildings on the image hubby shared are (Left to RIght) :-

My book pile 16.46m

Burj Kalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – official height 828m, or 830m to tip,

Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Shi, China – official height 632m,

Abraj Al-Bait Towers, Mecca, Saudi Arabia – official height including spires 601m,

One World Trade Centre, New York, U.S.A – 541m, or 546m to tip,

Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan – 509m,

Shanghai World Financial Centre, Shanghai Shi, China – 492m

International Commerce Centre (ICC) in Hong Kong – 484m

Petronas Towers, Malaysia – 375m

It’s been an interesting hour! To extend this further I’d like to include how many books I’d need in a pile/stack to reach the heights of those buildings and towers. Back to maths then <rolls eyes> Thankfully Mr NN is now around so whilst I have done some calculations, I’m not completely confident they’re right so I’m just going to have him double-check.

As we know my book pile – of 644 books is 16.46m

Burj Kalifa – 830m (to tip) totals 32,474 books (Hubby calculates based on 40 books per metre a total of 33,200 books – I’ll use his way of calculating just to make this easier!)

Shanghai Tower – 25,280 books,

Abraj Al-Bait – 24,040 books,

One World Trade Centre – 21,840 books,

Taipei 101 – 20,360 books,

Shanghai World Financial Centre – 19,680 books,

International Commerce Centre – 19,360 books, and finally,

Petronas Towers – 15,000 books.

I’m starting to wonder if I have too much time on my hands!

If you got to here – thanks for sticking with me! Enjoy the rest of your day. Until next time! NN

Book Review, Writing

Book Review – Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness

It feels like forever since I wrote the book review for ‘A Discovery of Witches‘ by Deborah Harkness. I originally read the first instalment of  the All Souls Trilogy a few years ago, and had wanted to read the complete trilogy since. If you read the review I wrote about ‘A Discovery of Witches’, link here to make that easier for you to refer back (if you want to). Book Review – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. You’ll see I was lucky in that my son bought ‘Shadow of Night‘ and ‘The Book of Life‘ for Christmas 2017. I decided once I had finished reading the book I was reading at the time (‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton – review of that is also here).  I would re-read the first book again. This was great as, although I remembered much of the first book it did jog my memory about a few things.

I finally finished the trilogy on 19th January. I came here to write a review of the final instalment, and then I noticed I hadn’t reviewed the middle book. Today’s review rectifies that, and I’ll be reviewing The Book of Life pretty much straight after.  I think the reason for the lack of review was because we moved home. I’d luckily thought to pack the third book in my suitcase so once I finished Shadow of Night I could start The Book of Life immediately after. Thank goodness I did as we actually moved twice; to a flat on the coast whilst we waited for our purchase to complete, which happened mid-October, when we moved to here (obviously). On to the book review then…

Shadow of NightThe second part of the trilogy seems to have been received well based on its ratings on both Goodreads and Amazon; gaining a rating of 4 stars out of 5 from Goodreads and 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon with a total of 134,515 reads with 72% of those Amazon reviews giving 5 stars page here. Actually looking at the stars for this shows it scored higher than the original story. I thought I’d love this instalment because of the historical experiences and descriptions it was going to have, and I did enjoy it for those reasons, although there were some uncomfortable quirks.

This book picks up right where the first book left us. Diana and Matthew have had to flea to the past in order to escape the Congregation, who are unable to accept the ‘illegal’ witch and vampire mating.

My first thoughts were how the people in the past would view a modern-day Matthew – the fashions for (clothing and) grooming being incredibly different between the two eras. A clean-shaven Matthew just doesn’t fit comfortably in a society where the majority of men have facial hair – a sign of masculinity at the time. This was mentioned by the other well-groomed men who suggested he grow a beard, and his hair. I bracketed the clothing as Diana and Matthew went back in time in loose smocks; outfits which would look as though they belonged but weren’t 100% accurate. Thankfully, very quickly this was quickly rectified by the people around them.

Deborah Harkness has received criticism for the lack of correct grammar, dialect, etc, used and understood by the characters in Elizabethan London, which is another problem I had, although I think this was a deliberate decision by Ms Harkness to ensure smoother and easier readability – some of the grammar and pronunciation just wouldn’t work within the novels and would detract from the story.

Personally, I wondered how the timewalking would be successful and how it would be explained, especially to those people in that world and I think the explanations given were a bit far-fetched, however when the story begins to move on and Diana and Matthew begin to settle into their new life (or for Matthew a return to an earlier period of his very long life) this is explained – the Matthew of the Elizabethan era is away and modern-day Matthew is able to fit in and then disappear before he returns. Again a little far-fetched, in that the return of the Matthew of the Elizabethan era may well be asked where his wife has disappeared to, etc, but overall this is acceptable.

The thing I found very difficult was the change in Diana since she met Matthew. Prior to meeting him she was a strong, independent academic, thus very intelligent. She was also very fit because of her running and rowing, however she seems to have lost all her abilities and strength. It is as if becoming un-spellbound has dimmed her somewhat – personality too. Failing that perhaps the strength of her relationship with Matthew, where she yields to his superior age, abilities and experience is the cause.

My feeling is that the many issues within the story are predominantly creative license. The book is the story the author wanted to tell, in the way she wanted to tell it. Others opinions are theirs alone, as have you ever met two people who agree on everything?

 

 

 

Uncategorized, Venue Reviews, Writing

Writing Prompts – A Place You Have Recently Visited

The Making of Harry Potter – Warner Bros Studio Tour

My husband and I celebrated our 25th Wedding anniversary last Summer. As a family we’re fans of the Harry Potter books and subsequent films (movies) so our son bought us tickets to the Warner Bros Tour as our gift. I thought I’d share some thoughts and photos and essentially this is a review. You can also view the official tour information here.

On 5th January we set off to the studios, which is in an unassuming area in Leavesden, which is a short drive outside of Watford. The start of the tour is timed – when you buy your tickets you buy a time slot; ours was 4.00pm. This is only for the initial part of the tour.

Outside the warehouse the sets and tour are based within are huge hoardings and statues of the Wizard’s Chess Pieces – these are dotted around inside the tour too and are impressive – it’s great to see them in full 3D and at full size, as seen in the films. One of the hoardings shows the Wanted poster for Sirius Black, played by Gary Oldman.

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As you enter the warehouse there is a long corridor taking you to the official beginning of the tour. The walls are covered in decorative quotes from the books, as per the picture below

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At the beginning of the tour you enter a cinema where you watch a film presented by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. You’re then invited through the doors of the Great Hall,  which, due to the time of year was set for Christmas. Although usually alongside each other the 4 tables – 1 for each house are not present. Only 2 are there and they are pushed back to the sides so you can walk freely in the clear space between and take your time looking at the foods, drinks, decorations, props etc.

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The ice sculpture complete with drinks, ready for the Yule Ball

Once you’ve had a while in the Great Hall you’re encouraged to move along so the next timed tour can follow. You enter to the rest of the actual sets used in the making of the films where you’re free to spend as much time as you like looking at everything. Amongst the sets the exhibits include costumes and props, and special effects, such as creature effects i.e. the screaming mandrakes. 

I’d never seen the house points calculator before. I didn’t even know there was a counter. I just presumed that the staff of Hogwarts knew the running total for each time points were awarded (or deducted – usually from Gryffindor thanks to Harry and Ron’s exploits!) Anyway, for those who also haven’t seen it here it is…

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Great to see, that despite Harry and Ron’s exploits, House Gryffindor has way more points than the other Houses!
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The Screaming Mandrakes – conceptual drawings, initial models and full-sized

There is so much to see that I could write all evening, into the early hours of the morning and share all of the nearly 400 pictures I took as we went around. It’s been difficult to choose which images to share! 

The highlights for Gryffindor fans (I think the majority of fans identify with/choose Gryffindor as their team or house) are Gryffindor Staircase, Common Room and Boys Bedroom. Harry and Ron’s beds are a lot smaller than you would think – this is explained at the set so I won’t spoil the surprise for anyone due to go. 

There is a Quidditch exhibit with a lot of the costumes and the Quaffle, Bludgers and Golden Snitch (balls). There are also several brooms available for you to sit on in front of a Green Screen and have your picture super imposed flying in a Quidditch game. I’m disabled and have good and bad days. Sadly, this day was a bad day and I wasn’t feeling strong enough to self-support on a broom but I’m hoping when we next go that I’ll be having a better day so I can climb on! 

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Team Gryffindor Quidditch strip
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Green Screen Broom

From this area you can move freely between different sets as and when you choose. There is no pressure to move along. There are fascinating areas throughout the studio, where you can see extra hair pieces some of the characters had to wear, some prostheses to alter their faces, hands, ears, etc, plus the actual make-up used on the characters. There is a fun story about Daniel Radcliffe picking at Harry’s scar and it needing to be re-glued regularly and also a story about Helena Bonham-Carter’s (Bellatrix Lestrange) false nails – again I won’t spoil the experience, but ask the guide who is at that particular area as they know so much more and are happy to help.

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One of the special effects areas with the many prostheses designed and used during the films. These are for the Goblins who own and run the Gringotts Bank.

The whole studio is a fantastic experience for all Harry Potter fans. There were people there of all ages. I was surprised by the very young kids who knew everything, but watching their faces was amazing. They really looked as if they were feeling the magic; that it was real.  Grown men and women in robes and others wearing their t-shirts, scarves and badges with pride. 

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Fawkes the Phoenix
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Privet Drive, where Harry Potter lived

Privet Drive is on an outside lot at the studios. You can go in to the house and see the cupboard under the stairs where Harry Potter lived, although there is another cupboard under the stairs in the main part of the studio. Privet Drive was where Harry Potter lived with the Dursley family (Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley), where he was treated poorly (think Cinderella). The real house the Privet Drive house is copied from is in Martins Heron, Bracknell and is sold regularly, and for much more than the usual market price due to its fame, see this News article about the real house.

Also on the outside lot is the Knight Bus, the Purple, triple-decker bus which moves magically, fitting in the small spaces between, through and around traffic and appears and disappears at will to collect stranded witches and wizards. The bus on the lot has been constructed from an actual London Bus; the roof was removed, the extra deck added and the roof put back on. 

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The triple-decker Knight Bus

Also on the outside lot are the Ford Anglia Ron and Harry flew to Hogwarts at the beginning of ‘The Chamber of Secrets’, which ended up being thrown around by the Whomping Willow. You can get in for a photo opportunity. There are also more of the Wizard’s chess pieces, which really are impressive close up. The final set item, which also leads back inside is the Hogwarts Bridge. This is most famous for the scenes in the final film, where it was mostly destroyed during the Battle of Hogwarts when Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley and Seamus Finnigan were instructed by Professor McGonagall to do so.

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Hogwarts Bridge

Other areas within the studio include the Potions classroom, Professor Umbridge’s Office – so Pink it’ll put you off the colour for a while, and the Forbidden Forest, complete with acromantula arachnids, including their head Aragog. Once through the forest you can board the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 3/4 and there are several luggage trollies there so you can imagine going through to the platform.

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The Hogwarts Express

The two final areas are Diagon Alley and the design concept areas. Diagon Alley is so well done, it’s a real street when you’re moving through it. This is the one area where we struggled with my wheelchair. The website does state there are a couple of areas which are challenging for wheelchair users and these are given as the Forbidden Forest and Diagon Alley. I found the forest to be reasonably ok, although I had my husband and son to help push me through. The surface there is very similar to the vulcanised flooring used in public toilets (bathrooms). Diagon Alley, though is a very difficult to negotiate even with help, but between my son and husband we managed.

The design and concept areas show the conceptual designs, scale, white card models

 

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Shop front of Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment
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Shop front of Olivander’s Wand Shop

The Design area was fascinating. Mr NN did a degree in Film, Theatre and TV Design and built scale models as part of that. He was fascinated by this whole area. I enjoyed seeing all the designs too but by this time we were starting to rush as it was nearly 8.00pm and our son had to be leaving for a train at 10.00pm and we still needed to find somewhere to eat.

For me, as a fan, the tour is fantastic. It is well above 10/10 and any fan should go. I did initially question the price of the tickets but there is so much to see, no time constraints, that you could, if you wanted to, stay until they close at 10.00pm. I plan to return in the Summer but will get a tour-timed ticket for early afternoon and stay as long as I need to in order to see the exhibits I didn’t take too much time at and to see the things I didn’t get to see. If you’re a fan then you really should go. If you’re not a fan then it’s still so interesting as a place to go. If you’re a film, TV or theatre design student then this is a absolute must and your course leaders and tutors should be including this as a learning and resource. 

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A scale model of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Winter

The last word I’ll leave with J.K Rowling, who needs no introduction. 

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blogging, Dog, Writer's Prompts, Writing

Writer’s Prompts

I’m back, and with a post inspired by ‘Writers Write’ February Prompts by Mia Botha. You’ll be able to find the older February jpg, which I’m using, at Pinterest or the jpg for February 2019 by visiting here.

Mia Botha says we should reconnect to writing by using pen and paper. I can’t find paper right now, and I do have a journal I’m trying to train myself try to write in every day so I’m going to just use her prompts to write here.

The prompt for 7th February is ‘Gust’. I’m going to aim to approach a single word prompt in three ways; factually, comically and with a little snippet of writing about Gusts.

Firstly, the word is appropriate given the wind has been blowing at 40-50 miles per hour since yesterday evening here in the county of Norfolk, United Kingdom.  We’ve not had things as badly as other parts of the country, however this morning I had to ask Mr N to rescue 2 of the garden chairs which came sailing by the window! This is a brief report of advice from the Met Office about the expected gales due to hit the U.K from this evening (now). I’ve never liked the wind. I don’t know how I’d cope if I lived in one of the areas in the U.S which cope with tornadoes, although I know that it’s a case of having to live with and through what’s given. Not one of us would wish for tragedy, fear or pain to beset our friends, family or the wider global family with which we belong. Sadly, we still see pictures of natural disasters causing pain, loss and grief almost daily.

gusts

Secondly, the comical ‘gusts’. Mr N has an awful problem with his stomach! This is most days and on and off, several times throughout the day too! So does the dog, especially if we happen to feed him a popular, tinned loaf dog food – Butcher’s is his favourite though so it’s a case of having to put up with it. Someone should invent a wind neutralising atomiser…that’s a job for another day!

Ok, so down to the final part of today’s prompt. Prose. This is going to be rough and ready but will include the word and subject of gusts.

The sky drew dark, as a swathe of leaves whirled past, as if swept by a giant’s mighty broom. The gusts danced a merry waltz, all nature welcome in to their private ball.  Thunder offered the rhythm, followed quickly by the thrumming of the rain as it pelted the ground, a repetitive pattern of limited repertoire.  Tonight would be wild, but as soon as it had begun the peace would return, the sun would shine and the birds would once again sing an opus of light and joy. © 2019 N C Toon

Baking, blogging, Cooking, Daily Challenge, Doing IT!, Journal Prompts, Writer's Prompts, Writing

Back to some challenges.

One of the ways I used to increase my quantity of writing was to look at some ‘Writing Challenges’, ’30 Day Challenges’, ‘Writing Prompts’ and ‘Journal Prompts’. Thankfully ‘Pinterest’ (link is to the UK site) has what looks like an infinite supply of these here. I’ve tried to use Monthly challenges from the same person/group before and visited the site yesterday to download a stash of them to my PC so I can work my way through the rest of the year (famous last words..?) I was frustrated as for one of the ‘collections’ August and October were missing, and on another collection February and October were missing. I’m wondering if there is some problem with October! I’ve had to fill these months with alternatives on offer but as long as I’m inspired to actually write anything then that’s what is important right?

My mind is currently full of ideas for different writing projects and I am struggling to know what to work with. Some of the ideas would make great novels and one would make a great movie, however right now I’m having to write in the house as my studio is still being used as a workshop whilst Mr Natters stores new flooring and his most used tools in there.  This is only a problem for me in so far as Mr N loves his TV box sets so I sometimes struggle to remain focused and the cats or nut-job dog want fuss, cuddles etc.

Bilbo Lap
See my problem? 🙂

Additionally, the studio will be getting an extension in the Spring/Summer. It’s a lovely space and I will be using it as a sewing and writing studio – the extension will be a writing cubbyhole (cubby). I am so excited about having somewhere just for me! It’s perfect as only a few steps away from the front door but overlooks the small side garden and pond. The sound of the waterfall relaxes me so if you don’t hear from me one day it’s because I’ve probably fallen asleep; head on desk! Once I’m in there I’ll share pictures. I LOVE seeing pictures of other creative people’s spaces. Some are so beautiful that it’s easy to understand why the space is so inspiring, so I’m more than happy to do the same.

As I have dinner (thank you Tesco for a tasty recipe) already cooked and on the stove; I just need to make a soda bread (Paul Hollywood‘s recipe) half hour before we’re going to eat, it means I have 2 hours just for myself. Peace, quiet and writing. Tap-tap!

So I’m now off to see what today’s challenge is, and whether I’ll choose February 7th Writing Prompt, Writing Challenge or Journal Prompt so will be back soon. Until next time…NN

 

 

 

 

blogging, Doing IT!, Writing

It works!

Lightbulb moment! 💡Why oh why did I take ’til now to actually do this?!

What I mean is to write every day. You know that thing I kept saying I was going to try hard to do, even if it were just a little bit? Well, I’ve been trying to do it. Even just 3 or 4 lines of something which once read back seems of dubious quality.

Now though, I can’t stop. I have words, ideas flowing from me like water from a tap! I get one idea started and then there’s another one, and then I get another idea from that. Not good when my plan is to enter short story competitions on a monthly basis while working on a quarter finished love story novel and another idea I’m not talking about yet – one of those ‘if I tell you I’ll have to kill you’ things (or I could get you to sign a non-disclosure type thinga-me-jig document).

If you’re new to writing please please take my advice. Write every day. It really is the only way to get your creative juices flowing. It’s taken me the last 16 days. That’s all.

The beginning of January was where I told myself that I really had to commit to do this this year. 2019. The next 2 weeks I read back old stuff. There are 28 folders within my ‘Writing’ folder on my one drive. They all show that I have been writing intermittently throughout my ‘adult’ life; the earliest stuff from age 17 (how naive does some of that look now?!) right through to 48 1/2. The 34 to 39 period was academic writing and it was that which made creative writing so difficult to return to.

Anyway, so after 31+ years I finally just did it. If I can anyone can. If you’re a writer, write. If you’re not a writer but have a great idea just do it (no link to sportswear brands intended).