On Saturday we watched dream team GB cycle their hearts out in a valiant team effort to try and launch the Manx Missile into the finishing shoot and win gold for Britain. Unfortunately, things didn't go to plan and not even two stage winners plus the overall winner of the Tour de France could chase down the break away group and get Cavendish to The Mall in time for a sprint finish. It was a gutting result, but the team rode incredibly, and being able to watch the action road-side in Richmond Park amongst the crowds of supporters was amazing. Seeing Wiggins and the rest of Team GB whizz past us in the lead of the peloton made me very happy indeed.
Harper Taxi Tours. Our taxi driver, Paddy, was informative and funny, and the experience was totally humbling. It was astonishing to see how close the Protestant Shankhill Road is to the Catholic Falls Road, and how high the wall around the Catholic area still is. In the midst of the many murals promoting republican or loyalist beliefs or demanding change and tolerance, we left our own little messages of peace.
On the Saturday after Paul Simon we slept in and missed out on the walking tours on offer in Dublin, so we did our own instead. We walked through St Stephen's Green, stumbled upon a film set at Trinity College (the BBC's Ripper Street, out in Autumn), bought some delicious treats at the Food Market in Temple Bar (the raw dark coconut slice was amazing), walked past Dublin Castle and took photos of angels for mum.
On Friday the 13th I flew to Dublin to see Paul Simon with my sister. Growing up, Graceland was always on high rotation in our car's CD-stacker, so it was magic to see the 25th anniversary tour together. The concert came alive when Ladysmith Black Mambazo came on stage, with their glorious deep voices and dance moves. Paul had everyone out of their seats and dancing for You Can Call Me Al and rounded out the long set with an amazing acoustic version of The Sound of Silence. His youthful American voice sounds just like it did 25 years ago.
We had a lovely lazy Sunday. I made a dent in our stash of frozen ripe bananas and made Nigella's Banana Bread for breakfast. I didn't have any rum or walnuts unfortunately, so the sultanas went in as is and I substituted the walnuts for chocolate, which was extra delicious. In the afternoon we cleaned off our bikes for the first time in over a year and went on our first cycle through London to test out a route to my new job. I'm not the most confident road-cycler at the best of times and taking on London's weekend traffic was pretty nerve-racking. I'm hoping to find a quieter route so I can brave the roads by myself. I see so many cycle commuters these days and it makes me very jealous! It's definitely the fastest way for me to get to work so I'll keep you posted.
On another note, the sun is shining again in London! We're celebrating with a picnic in the park this evening and brownies are on the menu, yum!
P.S. How awesome was Cavendish's stage win on the Champs-Élysées? So stoked for Team Sky. I can't wait to see Team GB perform on Saturday in London!
Ok, so I know saying that these are "the ultimate" brownies is a huge call, but you'll just have to trust me. These brownies are a firm favourite in my family and any occasion is an excuse to make them. This recipe produces a brownie that is chewy, fudgy, chocolatey deliciousness, and best of all, it's the easiest, least fancy brownie recipe you've ever seen. In fact, the recipe comes from a step-by-step children's cookbook and I've been making them since I was about 8 years old.
From The Family Circle Cookery Collection, Kids' Cookbook: Fun Step-by-Step Recipes by Mary Pat Fergus
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup walnuts (optional) (raspberries are even better)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 30 x 18 cm tin.
Put the butter and cocoa in a saucepan and melt gently. Add the salt, brown sugar and vanilla essence and stir in. Take off the heat and stir in the flour. Add the eggs and beat to mix. Add the walnuts or raspberries if using. Pour the mixture into the tin and spread evenly.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Once cool, sprinkle with icing sugar.
I don't enjoy watching sport on TV, but for some reason I love watching Le Tour de France. Perhaps it's because I fancy myself as a bit of a cyclist. I'm not sure why this is since I've only ridden in one real ride. It was quite a long one (London to Paris), but still, I only spent two months on the bike training for it and I haven't really ridden since (it was two years ago). So what is it about Le Tour that draws me in? My husband's and father-in-law's passion for the sport is definitely part of it, but I think it's mostly my absolute awe of the cyclists. The Tour must be one of, if not, the hardest sporting events around. This year's Tour is 3,497 km long and consists of 20 stages (9 of them are in the mountains). The cyclists ride an average of 175 km a day and last year's winner of the Maillot Jaune, Cadel Evans, had an average speed of 39.8 km/hr. How anyone cycles that fast for that long is beyond me. I love the strategy, the teamwork, the sheer grit and determination of the cyclists, and of course the drama (the crashes! the head butting and shoulder barging! the crazy spectators! the drug scandals!). The beautiful French scenery doesn't hurt either. This year British cyclist Bradley Wiggins is a favourite to win. I'm a fan of his team mate, Mark Cavendish, so this year's Tour has been especially exciting to watch. We keep saying we should go to France to watch the Tour in person. Maybe next year...
(All photos via Google images)
My sister landed in London last week. She arrived at our flat at one in the morning and we stayed up talking and laughing until my stomach hurt. No one makes me laugh as much as my sisters do.
Her friends came around for dinner that night and we decided to make an appetiser to go with our take-away pizza. We made Hugh's Simple Globe Artichokes, but it wasn't a winner (or maybe I don't like artichoke leaves). Luckily, the pizza went down a treat.
This week did not start well. I won't go into details, but by the end of Monday I was a bit of an emotional wreck, drained and exhausted. I felt like curling up on the couch with some Modern Family and lots of chocolate.