Manchester Christmas Markets

I have been spending far too much time in Manchester recently for my aftercare appointments for my laser eye surgery (total success by the way - more to come soon!), and I can definitely recommend that if you are ever in the area from late November onwards then the Christmas Markets are definitely worth checking out.

You can find more info on the Council website here, but essentially its street after street of the sweetest temporary wooden chalets filled with all the Christmassy goodness imaginable!

From Christmas decs to jewellery, cards to wooden toys, there is a nice mix of stuff to see.  Personally I thought it was quite pricey so maybe not the place to find some Christmas present deals, but it made for a nice hours wander and exploration.

And the food! Oh the food...cheeses and cocktails and schnitzel and pancakes and waffles and sweets and fudge and macaroons and mulled wine and stew and ohhhhhhhhh so much yummy food (plus there are free tasters...which I greatly approve of).

Add to all the amazingly delicious smells the sound of buskers playing Christmas carols, and this experience definitely got me in the mood for Christmas!  And given I usually find all the Christmas stuff which appears in November annoying at best, this is quite an achievement.

So congrats Manchester, your Christmas markets rock!

Odds Are, You Probably Don't Exist

My mind likes this...a lot :)

Author Ali Binazir calculates the odds that you exist, as you are, today. Surprisingly, the answer is basically 0. Click here to enlarge.

Source: My Boyfriend That Really Likes Statistics

Places dripping with people

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Ask someone to name their favourite places in the world and they will probably happily name you a few.

I would pick Miami and Istanbul.

Ask them to explain why they love these places and they will probably give some reasons about the weather, the sights, the food, the nightlife, the landscape etc.

I love Miami because the weather is perfect, the beach is awesome and it is in the middle of the most perfect tropical paradise imaginable.  I love Istanbul because it is the most incredible blend of Eastern and Western culture, the Islamic architecture and history is simply stunning.

But if you ask them to tell you what they did there, sure you will get the sightseeing or the nights out that relate back to the reasons why they love it.  More often than not though, they will tell you about the people they were there with.  

I went to Miami with my ex.  I was young and completely in love.  I look back on that time as the high point in our relationship.

Like it or not, the most perfect sunshine and beautiful buildings and fabulous things to do are not what makes us love a place.  Not what makes us choose it as our favourite place in the world.  It is the people, the interactions, the relationships that make the memories.

When places are tied to people, going back can be a strange experience.  The streets are the same, the sights the sounds the smells are all familiar, but somehow... everything is different.  The silence of missing voices hangs in the warm summer air, thoughts of lost loves and old friends drip from the buildings themselves.  Nothing is the same.

Every time I return to Manchester, I cannot shake the thoughts of an old friend who used to live there.  Every street, every building brings back echoes of his voice, memories of his face.  I dread going to Manchester simply because of the heartache it brings.  Manchester itself did nothing to deserve that. 

I would love to go back to Miami, but I don't know if I ever will, no matter how many chances are offered to me.  Relationships may come and go, but I couldn't bear to fall out of love with that city.

Brownie pudding

This is the recipe that dreams are made of, it is absolutely my favourite thing to cook, and I have yet to meet anyone who does not instantly adore it. is super easy to make!

Pudding Ingredients

7 oz / 200 g self raising flour
7 oz / 200 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 oz / 60 g melted margarine

Sauce Ingredients

1 mug caster sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 mugs boiling water


1. Preheat oven to 180°
2. Find a very large casserole dish (I use one which is 22cm wide and 10cm deep, if you do not have a big enough dish you will get molten chocolate sauce all your oven...sad times) 
3. Place the flour, sugar and cocoa in the casserole
4. Add the melted marg and mix
5. Mix enough milk into the pudding to make a stiff paste.  It needs to be stiffer than normal cake mix.
6. Spread the mixture so it is flat in the bottom of the casserole
7. Mix the mug of sugar and cocoa and sprinkle evenly over the top
8. Pour on the water.  Do not mix.
9. Bake for around 45 minutes until the cake part of the pudding is cooked.  A knife into the cake should come out clean

And enjoy!

National Geographic's Visions of Earth

Prettiness from My Modern Met ... this affirms my plan so so deeply to me.  This world blows me away.  Every single time.  It begs me to explore  This is why.

Who doesn't love seeing spectacular shots of our earth? Our partners over at National Geographic just sent word about their latest new book that's filled with eye-popping imagery. Inspired by its magazine’s feature by the same name, Visions of Earth: Beauty, Majesty and Wonder collects some of the best photos taken by the National Geographic Society’s famed photographers, world-renowned photographers and even regular people who submitted their personal photographs through National Geographic's community engagement feature, “My Shot.”

Each chapter is divided into themes based on the shapes of the photographs inside, including surfaces, radiance, parallels and more new ways to look at photography that you might not have thought of before. Interesting facts, such as the level of electricity produced by an electric eel or the most populous bird species on the planet, are interspersed throughout the book to stimulate the mind as well as the eyes.

They kindly sent us these preview pictures so that you can get a sense of what you'll find in the book. You can also watch an inspiring and informative video that accompanies the book here.

Above: Norway | The aurora borealis casts ethereal shapes in the night sky of northern Norway. Such magnificent displays occur as electrons, driven by the solar wind, hit the particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Photo by Ole Christian Salomonsen. ©2011 National Geographic

Indonesia | On the first day of Ramadan, in a mosque filled with whiterobed women, one child stands up and stands out. During the monthlong holiday, Muslims seeking spiritual purification fast from dawn till dusk. Photo by Sigit Pamungkas. ©2011 National Geographic

Namibia | In a scene stolen from a dream, a house succumbs to sand in Kolmanskop, once a thriving settlement for diamond miners. Winds have helped desert dunes reclaim the site, abandoned for more than 50 years. Photo by Marsel Van Oosten. ©2011 National Geographic

Kansas, United States | The Ferris wheel at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson mimics a giant Lite-Brite toy. Long lines can form at popular midway rides, but in this long exposure all the stress melts away. Photo by Joel Sartore. ©2011 National Geographic

Indonesia | See dusk in the Dampier Strait through a half-submerged lens and glimpse two distinct worlds. Under a cloud-slung sky, fishermen work on wooden boats. Beneath a mirror-calm surface, waters flash with baitfish. Photo by David Doubilet. ©2011 National Geographic

Tibet | Two yaks, wispy clouds and the grand vista of the Tibetan Plateau create a study in timelessness on Lake Nam Co. The salt lake, located at 15,400 feet (4,700 meters) above sea level, is the second largest in China. Photo by Felix Torkar. ©2011 National Geographic

Pennsylvania, United States | Showing off its iridescent eyespots, this Indian peafowl, Pavo cristatus, will molt and lose its elaborate plumage each year. It’s the tail, though, that encouraged Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of sexual selection. Photo by Lynn Luck. ©2011 National Geographic

Georgia, United States | A nearly translucent green gem of a grasshopper climbs on a flower petal. North American grasshoppers range in size from the minuscule to the largest, which can measure three inches (eight centimeters) long. Photo by Burent Erel. ©2011 National Geographic

Visions of Earth: Beauty, Majesty and Wonder can be found at their store. The perfect gift for your photo enthusiast friend!

How to define Love

Deep in the recesses of my past, a boy once told me that he loved me.  And what was my response?

"You are not in love with me. Either that or we have very different definitions of what it means to be in love..."

This answer still haunts me.  I criticised someone for having a different perspective to me.  Not only this, but I was criticising them without even knowing how to define love myself.

So in my typical "lets overanalyse every single little thing" fashion, I have been working for some time on how to define love.

The dictionary tells us that love is

"A strong feeling of affection and sexual attraction for someone."

This doesn't even come close to defining how I see love.  I need a definition which includes friendship, lust, intimacy and trust, and yet isn't based solely on any of them.  A definition which spans time and space without excluding any type of relationship.  A definition which reflects that the desire for love is independent from the other person, yet utterly dependent on them for its fulfillment. And this is my conclusion...

Love is when the desire to both know and be known by the other person is so all-consuming that nothing less than the rest of a lifetime is sufficient to satisfy.

The difference between true love and other kinds of love is then easy to see.  

For example, the love of a parent for a child is based on the desire for the parent to know the child but being known by them to the same extent is not necessary for satisfaction.  Love which is based on lust is satisfied in far less than a lifetime.  Love for a friend is not so consumptive that it requires intimacy to the same intensity in order to satisfy.

I am happy with my definition of love, but I have a suspicion that there may be as many definitions of love as there are relationships.  Or worse still, as many definitions as there are lovers.

Which means my definition is only correct for me, for how I love, for how I want to be loved.  It is after all my definition.

What if real love is the ability to give someone that which they need most of all while retaining the capacity to receive that which you yourself desire?

No wonder it gets so complicated.  All I know is that I should never deny someone else's experience of love again, regardless of whether or not it matches my own.  

Because Autumn is beautiful...

...who needs words?

Offering What We Are

Red Vineyards at Arles

Oh, the places we would pour ourselves over,
pushing into the meager surfaces
all the impulses of our heart, our desire, our need.
To whom in the end do we offer ourselves?

To the stranger, who misunderstands us,
to the other, whom we never found,
to the servant, who could not free us,
to the winds of spring, which we could not hold,
and to silence, so easy to lose.

Uncollected Poems

Kitchen update

Update on progress since my last post about my van kitchen ...

As you can see, the doors have now gone in and the hinged top is now on.  And inside...
The area for the cooker has been divided from the rest of the top section, the inside will be fully lined with lino to make it easy to keep clean.

The melamine coating for the top worksurface is also yet to be added, then it's just the shelves at the right hand end and a bit more painting...and I will have a kitchen!

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