Tuesday, 28 March 2017

December 2016 Rundown

As the temperature grew ever colder, we continued to cosy up with wonderful pets and delicious food.
We returned to Crouch End to look after Freddie, whose medication had been increased. Some days it was a real struggle to ensure he swallowed each and every pill, and some days it was inexplicably easy. Though I dreaded feeding times, he was such a cool cucumber and liked to chill with me on the bed or sofa.

Just down the road from where we were staying, I discovered a magical land called Beanstalk Natural. At first glance it appeared to be like any other health food store, but looks can be deceiving. I got to chatting with the owner and after finding out I was vegan, she plied me with free cups of her vegetable soups and slices of her cakes on multiple occasions. If that wasn't reason enough to come back again and again, she also kept bananas in stock after they had gone spotty, which was amazing! I could not find ripe bananas in any market, super or otherwise, and was sick of having to leave them for a week on the counter until they were sweet enough.

Taking advantage of this banana availability, I made plenty of nice creams (frozen bananas blended up to make soft serve-textured dessert), smoothies, and even simply frozen bananas with fruit sauce. As well as bananas, I upped my dessert game by utilising speculoos biscuits, Choc Shot sauce, cinnamon and a lot of ice cream.

As I enjoyed the surrounding area, I would go on daily walks. Above can be seen Alexandra Palace, which was a hideous building. I didn't even get a good view because on the day I walked up there, the world was shrouded in mist.

Another nice walk I took was through Highgate Wood, which is not terribly wooded. There are trees, sure, but the English have funny ideas about words like "forest" and "wood". They use them to mean something closer to "a park with some trees in". (To their credit, it could have been a wood historically and the name has stuck around.)

One evening I headed from Crouch End to downtown London, and on the way I experienced an exceptionally affluent suburb: Hampstead. The roads were exclusively reserved for mansions with tall gates and fountains out the front. I felt so out of place that I thought someone might call the cops, assuming that a person such as myself, dressed in jeans and getting around on foot, was preparing to rob them. I spotted a wallpapering van parked outside one mansion that advertised services including "metal leaf" and "hand painted Chinese and Japanese silk". The township of Hampstead was beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and trees, and many of the boutique shops had gone all out with the winter ornaments as well (and I'm not talking about snow from a spray can applied to windows).

Having spent an inordinate amount of time on walking and cooking, I wasn't very social in December. However, one day I met up with an acquaintance at Wild Food CafĂ© for lunch. I met her randomly at a party of a mutual London friend and found out that we had two other mutual friends in New Zealand. Small world. Wild Food became one of my favourite lunch spots because of its delicious menu (happily 100% vegan). I could never pass up the sweet potato fries with paprika cashew cream, and would get them as a side on every visit. I rarely ordered drinks or dessert, because eating out in London is so expensive, but I did occasionally splurge and on that day I savoured the raw pumpkin pie. 

Having scored a house sit over Christmas that would last almost a month, we moved into the southern village of Whyteleafe on the second Sunday of December. Our wards were two fluffy chinchillas: ZaZa and Gia (grey and white respectively). The house itself was still in the process of being renovated, so some of the flooring wasn't installed and we didn't have a functioning stove for the first week, but it was a comfortable place with a view of the misty valley below. Chinchillas are nocturnal rodents from South America, so they would sleep during the day and scamper around in the evening while I cooked dinner and watched movies.

The slippers I had previously owned had become too foot-stanky to wear, so I went shopping at a nearby Tesco for a replacement pair. While there I found a cute children's hat, but didn't buy it because I already had a lovely warm head covering from Berlin. The slippers I purchased were badger-themed and I named them Bhindi and Bhaji (bhindi bhaji is okra curry - so yummy).

I continued to go for long walks while in Whyteleafe, though many streets I found to be not so pedestrian-friendly. Sometimes I would be walking along to find that the footpath ended and I would have to cross the street, only to discover that ten minutes later the footpath disappeared on that side as well. Walking in the road isn't fun and could be dangerous, so after my first week or so of intrepid exploring, I stuck to routes I knew to have proper footpaths. I also found that on most days, Whyteleafe existed inside a cloud. Whether this was because of the time of year, the fact that we were next to a valley or it was a chance occurrence I'll never know.

Once the stove had been set up, I continued to enjoy macrobiotic meals for their freshness and simplicity. For the first few days I had to make due with microwaving beans, potatoes and frozen vegetables, and I became rather tired of peas. It's funny how much we take things like stoves and ovens for granted (and refrigerators too - I can't imagine living without a fridge).

Normally at Christmastime, we visit Yannick's family and have a lovely couple of weeks of eating and merriment. This year, however, we were in a different country away from our families and even from our friends as the train ride into London took over an hour. Instead of making big plans, we kept the holidays pretty quiet, but still indulged in many good meals and sweet treats. Not only did we partake in the French cider I had brought back from my Paris trip, but we also had several bottles of Prosecco, and cracked open a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for New Year's Eve. I had stashed a few blocks of chocolate, as well as some cookies and Nakd bars. Yannick brought home two little vegan Christmas cupcakes from a bakery in Soho one evening, and I gave myself a few new Crazy Rumours chapsticks as Christmas gifts (I have a bit of an addiction to them). Though our holiday season was super low-key, it was our kind of low-key and with all the awesome food and drink, as well as Yannick having two weeks off work and a day trip to Brighton, we had a wonderful time.