Hello and welcome to my Little Willow blog, well welcome to those who might stumble across it anyway as I have yet to give this address to anyone :) I thought I might try and see how I get along with just writing in it first. It's all a lot of random stuff, but hey, hopefully there'll be something interesting for people

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Spelling error

I came across another spelling error today - and once again on a menu! This time it was on an online menu for What's Cooking at the Albert Dock. This spelling mistake was only made once, that I noticed, and it wasn't a food item. Unfortunately I am unable to copy and paste the sentence in but it reads 'Children's Meals are suitalbe for children up to 11 years.' As you can see, the word 'suitable' has been misspelled, or there has been a mis-type. A simple mistake yes but one I wanted to mention (especially as I haven't noticed anything else out there for a while lol).

Restaurant Review - Viva Brazil, Castle Street, Liverpool

My friends and I went to the new Brazilian Restaurant that opened in Liverpool City Centre, Viva Brazil, for our annual Christmas meal.

The restaurant looks like it once used to be a bank, which is Liverpool is highly likely. The decor is simple and elegant and it was a lovely atmosphere to walk into.

This restaurant is a meat eaters heaven - waiters actually walk around with meat on sticks - ok so it's a little more elegant than that but in it's most simple form... :-) You pay a set price and this allows you to eat as much as you like from the salad bar, the traditional dishes and the meat - it is quite expensive but worth it in my eyes.

You initially go up to the salad bar to get your plate and get yourself something to go with the meat. They had plenty on offer - bread, cheesy bread, rice with onions and garlic (heavenly), vegetable lasagna, lettuce tomato, cucumber, pasta salad, amazing deep fried rice balls, a variety of dressings and many more options that I can't think of right now. At your table you have a circular disc (which resembles a coaster) that is red on one side, with the message 'no thanks' and green on the other, with the message 'yes please', indicating to the meat waiters that you do not/do want meat to be brought to you.

The waiter then proceeds to slice the meat at your table, while you use a metal pincher thing to transfer the meat to your plate. On this night we had plenty coming around to keep us from starving including chicken legs, chicken wrapped in bacon, gammon, caramelised pineapple, homemade sausages, beef and garlic beef - though even more is available (approx 15 meats per evening).

By the end of the night, I felt as though I wouldn't be able to move without bursting and that I would never eat again. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone and hope everyone gives it a try, it was amazing. I would give this restaurant a 9 out of 10, losing that last star because it is highly priced and the waiting staff could have been a little more attentive with drinks etc.

To go to the restaurant website click here

Sunday, 26 December 2010


Hello everyone

How has your Christmas been? Mine has been good but not quite what I was expecting. Originally my oldest brother and sister-in-law were supposed to be coming to visit from Sunday 19th December to Thursday 23rd but then pretty much everyone in our family got sick and they didn't want to catch anything which is fair enough. At the same time, my other sister-in-law Kirsten was taken into hospital with stomach pains, which they eventually learned was due to the new baby's head being stuck under Kirsten's ribs, causing some internal damage and infection. So not a very good time all around, not helped at all by the weather conditions.

My original plans of doing a 'baking present' for everyone ended up flying out the window, which is a shame cos I've bought loads of stuff and was really looking forward to doing it :-( but we were told that Stephen and Mandy might be coming up to visit on Boxing Day (today) but we got a lovely Christmas surprise when they rung and said they were coming up on Christmas Day, so our intended very quiet day turned into something a bit more jovial which was nice. Though it is a shame they will probably miss seeing Mike and Kirsten as they have gone to visit Kirsten's dad and will be travelling home the same day Stephen and Mandy will be leaving :-(

Unfortunately last night, things got worse...we were all rudely awakened about 4am to a cascade of water leaking through the bedroom light in the little room, spilling mostly all over Stephen and Mandy's clothes! Because it had jolted us out of sleep everyone was a bit groggy and kind of stared at the water for a minute then it became action stations and Stephen ran downstairs to get a bucket or something and ended up going flying in the kitchen as the water had all started leaking through the bedroom floor into the kitchen! Not something you need at 4am. We all chipped in and managed to get buckets in all the right places and towels to mop things up as best we could but we had to leave the clothes until this morning - and they have so far been spending the day in the tumble dryer.

I don't think 2010 will go down as the best Chrismtas ever but I suppose you can't say it was boring :-)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Writing update

Hello again

I've been having a think recently about my writing course and I think I'm going to abandon the non-fiction part of the course, for now at least, and move on to the fiction assignments. As I've said numerous times, I fnd non-fiction very difficult, especially when it comes to generating ideas, it just doesn't come naturally to me. There are a couple of assignments in non-fiction that I would be interested in doing - travel writing and photography but I am hoping to back and finish it all, if only to complete the whole course.

I think what made my decision was when I didn't really want to think about my assignment, because it was hard, I did have a couple of ideas but I couldn't get anything coherent onto the page. Plus, not being a magazine reader, I think, is a bit of a disadvantage as most magazines hold no interest for me and reading through them to find a market was a chore and also a drain on money!

I think this is the right decision for me and hopefully in 2011 I can be more creative :-)

Oh, by the way, I'm really hoping to reach 100 posts by the end of the month, for no other reason than it's a nice, large, round number to finish out the year with. Of course, this means more than one post a day to be able to reach my target, so apologies if any (more) drivel is churned out

Christmas cake - the taste test

So yesterday was my dad's birthday and I decided to use the Christmas cake as a birthday cake for him as he likes fruit cake and originially yesterday was supposed to be our first Christmas Day with Stephen and Mandy.
As it turned out we saw Michael, Kirsten and Ella yesterday as well as Kirsten was allowed out of hospital so they came to visit - more guinea pigs for the cake were my thoughts :-)

It seemed such a shame to cut into it and ruin how it looked, but it had to be done, so I cautiously cut into it and laid out slices for everyone, just waiting to hear the choking sounds from everyone. But everyone seemed to like the cake, myself included - especially as there was no candied peel to look out for! It was a little crumbly which my mum said can be prevented by baking it a couple of months in advance, so I may do that next year :-)

So all in all the cake was a success so I'm very pleased with that

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas Cake

As you all know, I have taken up baking cakes as a hobby this year which I am fully enjoying. So this year I decided to make my own Christmas cake and I finally put the finishing touches to it today. I initially made the cake at the beginning of December and I decided to wrap it up and leave the marzipan-ing, icing and decorating til nearer Christmas. I don't ordinarily like fruit cake much, mostly due to the glace cherries and candied peel (which is just disgusting) so making my own allowed me to improvise and remove items I disliked and include those I did - i.e. cranberries which I hope will make a nice addition and it remains very Christmassy.

So today I dragged the cake out of its hidey hole and got to work. I must say at this point I did cheat slightly and buy ready rolled marzipan and icing - I figured making and decorating the cake for this year was challenging enough. One thing I should have read carefully on the boxes though was the size of the cake they covered - 20cm and my cake is a larger 23cm - but I made the best of it without having to trek up to the shops through the snow for more.

For the marzipan, it doesn't matter so much about presentation as it will be covered with the icing. So firstly I placed the cake on the marzipan and cut around it, thereby producing the top - easy done. The next bit was a little harder as the remaining shape was like a crescent moon, when it would have been more ideal to be a long rectangular shape which could then be rolled around the side of the cake -but no such luck :-( I did the best I could and even shmooshed some of the marzipan together and rolled it out and cut it to the shape I wanted (ish). I then took all the marzipan off so I could stick it down with apricot jam! Despite these challenges, I managed to cover the entire cake - thereby finishing step one.

Now the next step was to be a little harder as there's no way you can just stick random pieces of icing all over the cake to plug little holes. In a very ungainly fashion I picked up the circular piece of icing and plonked it on top of the cake. the icing only reached part of the way down the sides of the cake, but I thought I'll deal with that later and get on with smoothing it out. So I tried smoothing it down but didn't find a good way to do it without causing some pleating but I did the best I could to smooth these pleats out. I managed to smooth the icing a bit further down the sides of the cake, leaving only a small amount of icing free cake at the bottom but I decided this was acceptable as no-one would really be looking at it from that angle anyway :-) Plus it's a first attempt, it's not really meant to look spectacular - I didn't want to show off and look like a pro my first time out :-p

Next came the fun part - decorating! I had purchased some white holographic edible glitter to play the part of snow - and it played its part very well indeed and sparkles every time you move you head slightly. I then decided to make a little bit more icing and craft a snowman - my very first modelling attempt (I even bought black food colouring for the occasion!). I managed to do the head and the body (although to be fair, I'm sure a small child could do this). It was a little more tricky doing the small intricate bits like the eyes, nose and buttons. I firstly used my newly purchased black colouring to create the eyes and buttons, which I used more apricot jam to afix to the snowman. Now unfortunately I couldn't find any orange colouring so I made do with a mix of yellow and red which came out red. The nose was the most difficult part of it and I'm still not really happy with it - from certain angles it looks like big red lips haha :-) but never mind, it'll do, I couldn't do any better with the materials I had (couldn't possibly be down to my crap modelling skills hehe).
So starts the decorating...

The next thing to do was to add a variety of the Christmas style toppers that I purchased, along with others I was given for my birthday. Firstly I used a template and red glitter to put a lovely red bow on. I then added my inedible purchases to the middle of the cake - A Merry Christmas sign and 2 pieces of holly, as well as a cute little robin which I placed next to the snowman. From there on it was a case of putting lots of different things on the cake, hopefully in a fashion that made it look nice and not overcrowded - I did use some restraint. Also, in an attempt to disguise the missing icing, I places little toppers all around the side of the cake, hopefully drawing people's eyes towards them rather than the bottom of the cake!

The finished cake!

The finished product is to the left and below. I enjoyed every step of making the cake and will be doing it again next year. This cake was supposed to be seen and enjoyed (hopefully) by all my family this year (barring the Americans) but fate has worked against us and Stephen and Mandy never made it up due to everyone in the family being unwell and the weather didn't help either. Michael and Kirsten are also unwell - Kirsten is in hospital with suspected shingles, but they're not really sure. The baby seems to be doing ok though so that was good news. So it will be just me, mum and dad eating it on Christmas Day (probably), although Stephen and Mandy are hoping to come and visit from Boxing Day instead.
Close up

The side toppers

I hope everyone else's Christmas baking has gone to plan :-)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

It Burns!!

I discovered a brilliant invention a couple of years ago called Little Hotties. These are literally little packages of heat that stay warm all day, once activated.
Now, the packages do carry warnings of high temperatures with a chance they can burn you if left next to your skin for any length of time. Usually I will keep the hotties either in my cardigan/jacket pocket or if there are no pockets then in my jeans pocket for lovely cosy warmthness :-) Putting them in my jeans pocket does usually result in a red mark on the top of my legs, but it soon fades away and leaves no lasting marks.

However, yesterday, I wore a pair of new jeans for our work Christmas lunch and I'm now thinking the material of the pockets is much thinner than on my other pairs of jeans as when I went to the toilet in the afternoon and pulled my jeans down, pieces of my skin also came away and left red raw skin there, which let me tell you is extremely painful! I didn't feel this happening at all, I didn't notice my skin slowly burning away.

I spent last night constantly reapplying lovely cooling cream and now have a lovely plaster on it to avoid it getting irritated. Safe to say, I  don't have any hotties with me today. That being said, it won't put me off using them, I'll just take more precautions next time and maybe not put them in my jeans pocket or if I do, wrap it in a few layers of tissues :-)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Film Review - Skyline

I had been looking forward to seeing this film as it looked like a cross between Independence Day and Cloverfield, two films I very much enjoyed. End of the world disaster movies do appeal to me in general though.

The film, however, was quite weird and even now, a few weeks after seeing it, I still haven't really made up my mind what I think about it. It wasn't what I expected, but I wouldn't go as far as to say it was a bad film, but then again, I also wouldn't buy it on DVD.

It would appear from the trailer that aliens invade Earth but you don't see an awful lot more of the aliens in the whole film as you do in the trailer, it would have been better, I think, to see a little more interaction between the humans and the aliens. The characters are a little weak, in that they seem to behave as most humans in that situation would - they're scared, they try to hide and they try to evade capture, there's no real talk or action towards the main characters becoming the heroes and ridding the world of the aliens, this moment never really comes.

I suppose the best way I can describe it is that it was anti-climactic. On the plus side though, it was quite gory and violent at times and the ending was different and unexpected. It was kind of left open for a sequel, but also finished satisfactorily as a stand alone movie - though I do hope they leave it alone, I'm not sure where they could go with a sequel.

Writing this has made me realise my feelings towards the film are more negative than positive, though I do stress I didn't hate the film, but I doubt I will seek to watch it again.

My rating would be 4 out of 10

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Book Review - The Hunger Games trilogy

The Hunger Games Trilogy consists of the Hunger Games, Catching Fire and the Mockingjay written by Suzanne Collins. The synopsis is Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been clse to death before—and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever..

I actually heard about the first book on Stephenie Meyer's website (author of the Twilight Saga) where she claimed it was a brilliant book. So I thought since I like what Stephenie writes, I would possibly like what she reads. So I bought The Hunger Games, not knowing it was an intended trilogy and I literally read it in a day - I sat on the futon in my brother's old room and devoured it. Although it's technically classed as young adult fiction, it was still brilliant, as so many are these days.

The story is set in a dystopian world which consists of 13 districts, all of which are controlled by President Snow in the Capitol. In remembrance of an uprising against the Capitol many years previously (which resulted in the destruction of District 13), the capitol puts on the Hunger Games each year. The Hunger Games involves taking 2 children from each District and placing them all in an arena to fight to the death - there can only be one winner. The Games are supposed to serve as a reminder to the Districts, of the Capitol's power.

As you can guess, Katniss is the female representative of District 12. For the Capitol and surrounding Districts, the Games are a source of entertainment, a reality show to be enjoyed, to the point where some of the Districts see it as an honour to be chosen rather than a sick and twisted game where lives are lost. Due to the nature of the games, all the contestants have stylists, designers and make up people to help them through their interviews prior to the Games, all in aid of gaining sponsorship which can aid you in the Arena.

The Arena is different every year with new challenges to face. As the book is targeted at a young adult readership, the book isn't overly graphic, but neither does it shy away from the horror of the situation these teenagers find themselves in. Many comparisons have been made with the Japanese horror story Battle Royale and I would say that some of these comparisons are fair, it's possible the author had either read the story or seen the film and gained inspiration from this. I have seen the Battle Royale films and find enough differences between them to find both enjoyable.

I can't write any more about the story without giving away too much of the plot so I will leave it as it is...other than to say I found the first and second book better than the third, though I loved all three.

Overall I would give the trilogy 8 out of 10

Writing Update

Well how do I update you? I suppose 'what writing?' would be the most accurate. I have to say I've not done very well at all with any kind of writing. I did attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge but unfortunately November flew by and I really didn't have time to write - though I did manage about 3100 words, which was more than I expected, though I would still have liked to have done better - maybe next year? At least I can be more prepared next time.

Also I've not done any work on my assignments, again down to time constraints. I haven't even attempted my next assignment in recent weeks...oops. I'm hoping the break over the Christmas period will afford me some writing time :-) I promise though that I haven't lost interest in writing and it is all purely down to time.

Here's to doing better and also knowing my first New Year's Resolution :-)
Good luck to my fellow writers out there, I hope you're all faring better than me!

Film Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

As with most of the other Harry Potter films, I booked my ticket in advance for the opening day - 19th November 2010. I was excited for weeks and the day itself went very fast as it happened to coincide with Children in Need. Me and Carol were booked in to see the 20:15 performance and decided to meet at Frankie and Benny's for 6:30pm and head over to the cinema half an hour before the start time.
Despite going along this early, we still ended up in a big queue! The showing was a sell out but we luckily managed to get good seats.

The critics had said how they felt this film was just there to set up the second part, which I think is a little unfair as the book itself has less action in the first half and more in the second, but you couldn't have the second part without the first. I feel that the action that there was in the film was very well done - the broomstick chase with all the Harry's at the beginning, the end to both Hedwig and Dobby were very sad, the death eaters arriving at the wedding party, Harry, Ron and Hermione taking Polyjuice potion to sneak into the Ministry of Magic and many other points throughout the film.

I was surprised at the amount of humour in it, but it did well to balance the very dark themes of this installment. There were moments were I felt the film could possibly have been awarded a 15 certificate, taking into consideration the death of the teacher and the torture of Hermione. Plus the random naked images of Harry and Hermione - what was that all about? For me personally though, I'm glad it was so dark and wasn't diluted down for the kids.

I very much enjoyed the film and can't wait to see Part 2 - I wanted to just carry on watching and I'm sort of hoping there will be the opportunity to watch both halves in the cinema next year :) There were a couple of moments missing in the film which I had loved in the book, most notably for me was Dudley saying goodbye to Harry and letting him know he didn't hate him - it was told so well in the book, but not touched upon in the film which was sad. I know they have so much to fit in, but I think it would have been a nice addition. One thing I particularly liked that wasn't in the book was where it showed Hermione wiping her parents memory of her and making them want to go to Australia - it was a very touching scene.

I am looking forward to seeing the film again and I award this film 9 out of 10

Monday, 6 December 2010

Baking Review - my birthday cake

It was my birthday on 1st December and despite being told it was very sad, I made my own birthday cake. But I wanted to, especially as I had recently purchased the giant cupcake silicone mould I wanted to try out.

So the day before I had all the ingredients ready to go and used a sponge recipe courtesy of my friend Melissa. As it turned out, I had to make a second batch of the mix as the mould holds more than you'd think - or more than I thought anyway.

I'm not entirely certain how I feel about how the cake turned out, aesthetically-wise anyway. The cake took a lot longer than I expected to cook through - the outside was starting to get burned and the middle was still like mush for a long time. The burnt part of the cake was easily scraped off without losing too much of the look of the cake. I put a layer of buttercream and layer of jam between the base and the top and then covered the top in buttercream.

I was a little worried how it would taste but I needn't have worried as it wasn't too bad to be honest and did taste quite birthday cake-like. Next time, however, I will add another layer of buttercream and jam to the base as there was a lot of cake and it needed breaking up a little more.

On the same evening I also made chocolate cupcakes from the Hummingbird book to take into work for my colleagues. And for the first time, my frosting worked out well enough to be able to use the squeezy piping thing I have and I was pleased with how they turned out :-)

Spelling error

I've decided it might be fun to write about any spelling or grammar errors I find out there in the world - especially being an aspiring writer, it's good to be aware of these things. Although I imagine there are so many mistakes out there - more than we notice day to day as the human brain has the capacity to read things you expect to see rather than what's actually there staring you in the face, so it's very easy to miss these mistakes.

This one I found was a few weeks ago in an Italian restaurant called Quattros and as you will see from the picture, they misspelled the word 'cheese', writing instead 'chesse'. Now this I did immediately notice but then I did get worried that this was some Italian version of the word but I googled it and nothing was forthcoming so I came to the conclusion that it was a mistake. I apologise that you will have to turn your head to read this as I don't know why it's uploaded like this when it is the correct way up at the source, but never mind, the error is still legible.

I'm curious in a situation such as this whether the restaurant are aware of the mistake, or if it has passed by unnoticed. I imagine that even if it had been noticed, it would be too expensive to replace all their menus just to change this one spelling, which most people will probably read as cheese and not notice as that is what you expect to read after the word mozzarella.

I also have a vague memory of reading a really poor piece of writing with many spelling and grammatical errors and I remember this being in a notable publication - however I can't for the life of me remember where it was so I think I possibly dreamed it :-) Oh well, I will report back if I realise what it was.

I realise writing about spelling and grammar errors leaves me completely vulnerable to getting comments on any mistakes I make, but I am open and willing to hear back on these and will promptly fix as I know I am as fallible as the people who make the mistakes I will write about. In the meantime I hope you enjoy these mistakes I come across.