Alice Takes on the Pudding Van

Someone abandoned their catering van on my housing estate. And I was not happy.

Look at it! It’s massive!

Naturally, I applied a very level-headed attitude to this. That’s right, I sent a ranty email to estate management. It went something like this:

WHY IS THERE A MASSIVE CATERING VAN PARKED IN A VISITOR SPACE? I’VE CHECKED THE REGISTRATION PLATE (“XXX XXX” for your reference) AND IT’S NOT TAXED OR INSURED. IT’S UGLY AND CLEARLY BEEN ABANDONNED. I PAY MY MANAGEMENT FEES, SORT IT OUT!

(The caps are a reflection of the shouty voice in my head and okay, I may have left the last bit out.)

Estate management responded, saying that they’d run some checks on the licence plate and, indeed, it wasn’t insured. They’d located the owner and told them to move it within the next 48 hours.

48 hours came and went, the van unmoved. I wish I could say my hatred for it was equally stagnant but when you’re facing onto something like that every time you want to go and make a cup of tea in the kitchen, it’s hard to let go.

Whilst waiting for the owners to be chased up again, I did a little investigation of myself. By in investigation, I mean be super nosey. There weren’t any company details on the van and the only reference to it on the internet traced me back to a since closed-down Facebook page, linking it to Pershore some 56 miles away, several counties over.

Instead of hard, concrete information, I had to deal with statements like this:

It reads: “Feeling stressed? Stressed backwards is desserts”

I don’t know what bothered me most; the font, the placement, the words or the fact that it’s annoyingly true. Everything about it grated on me more than the sugary sweetness of the food it claimed to provide.

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Update: I drafted this post in September 2021, however in June 2022 the van disappeared altogether. I assumed it was at local festival and that it would be back later that evening. But it never came back and I haven’t seen the van since. No idea what has happened but the problem of the Pudding Van seems to have sorted itself!

(I’m totally putting it down to my ability to moan, that or my top-notch judgemental stares out the window.)

(And as for why I’m not posting it until now…well, I forgot I’d written it.)

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Alice’s Signature “Three Ingredient” Cooking (Alias “Stodge Dinner”)

A couple of videos that showcase just the level of my culinary abilities. I’d caveat it with something like, “it had been a long day in the office and/or it was 23:00 in the evening”, but it wasn’t. It was 19:00 and it was me, being me.

Part One – Preparation and Cooking

Part Two – Finishing Touches and the Taste Test

Oh, and here is the pastry I mentioned in the video, the free one.

I think it was a citrus tart. It tasted of lemons. It was going out of date that day, so someone came up to me and asked if I wanted it. Five days after said expiry date, I ate it (because that’s the kind of classy girl I am).

So, who wants to hire me as their private chef?

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Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

Some of the photos and posts that I wanted to write for My Housemate’s a Mermaid, but didn’t quite have enough material (pictorial and verbal) to fill.

Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

  1. The time how, at the start of the pandemic, Mumma B spent hours cutting squares of old fabric to make laundry bags for NHS key workers

2. When I stayed up so late that I ended up watching a much younger Nicky Campbell presenting a Top of the Pops episode from 1990

Some people had more fun than others.

I continued to watch it, even when this was played from the UK top twenty for the week.

3. How very surreal my office was when I went back to empty my locker

4. My sister’s attempts with one of those packet face masks from South Korea

It ripped off a load of skin, but not a lot else.

5. Squeak, the cat, being rebellious

6. The time I saw my old/favourite History lecturer from University on the BBC and I absolutely lost my cool

I mean, WITH LUCY WORSLEY!!

7. The time I found this in a shop and it perked up my mood

(But not enough that I bought it.)

8. The generous gin measures down the local pub

9. The generous measures of lunch portions while living with family

10. The thinking behind this at the Travel Lodge Hotel in York

It was in the foyer for several days…

11. A post detailing the contents of my bookshelf

12. Everything about this account that started following me on Twitter

How did it take you to spot that’s a semi naked woman?

13. A post on me rekindling my creative mojo during the pandemic

14. The importance of good friends who call-out when you have really bad body odour

15. The ‘what the fudge-ness’ of this targeted advert

Yes, I did tap the link and yes, I am still getting adverts for werewolf fan-fiction as a result.

16. Lockdown birthdays

17. The large number of self-published books with Covid themes

18. The other strange things being self-published

Although I am still a bit in love with the title of this book.

19. My attempts to have a massive clear-out

…which were ultimately foiled by a mixture of procrastination / charity shops being closed / Bubble the cat.

So there you go, a snippet of how much gets filtered before making it onto this website. What can I say? You get what you pay for.

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UK Christmas TV Adverts 2020

This post has been sparked off my Mumma B, who only the other day asked me about this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert.

The thing is, she comments about the lack of visibility, but at the same time records everything on her YouView box purposely to skip all the adverts. You see the dilemma here?

Basically I’m posting all the Christmas adverts for the main UK players so that my mum can see them in one place (and once only).

I’ll add to the list as and when any additional companies release theirs (please do also poke me with a metaphorical stick in the comments). Otherwise lets get to it! In no particular order…

UK Christmas TV Adverts (2020)

John Lewis / Waitrose Supermarket

Aldi Supermarket

Lidl Supermarket

Walkers Crisps

McDonald’s

TK Maxx

Argos

Barbour

Very.co.uk

Amazon

Tesco Supermarket

Asda Supermarket

Morrisons Supermarket

Sainsburys Supermarket

Boots

Lego

Dreamies Cat Treats

M&S Food

Disney

Coca-Cola

JD

Ralph Lauren

(Disclaimer: All videos above have been lifted from YouTube via the URL. I don’t own any part of these videos.)

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The Battle of Cakegate

Mumma B made a coffee and walnut (but not walnut because she only had almonds) cake the other week. It was lovely.

However, very quickly battle lines were drawn when my sister, also in lockdown with us, questioned the fairness of the portion sizes. See some people in the family tend to favour the little and often approach, others the massive slab at a time. Papa Bennett is also a fan of the unheard of fad of ‘breakfast cake’ (still waiting on the proof that coffee cake is a fair substitube to the morning drink).

India, being young and thereby somewhat left of centre, proposed that a system was drawn up and rapidly used the Spode cake cutter (#MiddleClassProblems) to mark out portions on the cake. Putting to one side how badly drawn and unequal these lines were, I was happy to go along with it.

“But how will we know who has eaten what?” Mumma B cried out loud. I just shrugged, Dragon’s Den was on TV and I love that show.

So while I was half-hearted watching a television rerun Mumma B was out planning how to resolve the biggest catering crisis since home bakers having to buy substitute flour during lockdown.

I walked into the kitchen to discover my dear mother had been at it again with the cocktail sticks and PostIt notes.

Oh yeah, AND it was done through the clingfilm, making it a Middleclass nightmare to even gain access to said cake!

Funny thing is, it didn’t even stop people. It’s like the time Papa B was eating a magnum ice cream and only afterwards saw the wrapper had been labelled with a large white sticker saying ALICE. I learnt a lot about our parent/daughter relationship that day…

Anyway, people still ate cake regardless of the little flags, BUT no one complained this time. Who knows, maybe this approach could be here to stay. The battle of cakegate could be the Bennett family’s new normal.

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More Than Just a Sandwich

Recently myself and a small team have been working closely with a local charity in Swindon (Wiltshire, UK). The Sandwich People (headed by The Salvation Army) are a small catering enterprise that help those experiencing hardship retrain and get themselves back on track.

Having recently spent time volunteering with these guys (hence the classic local paper pose) I can vouch that everyone from the management to those producing and selling really do put their all into what they do.

Click this link to read the official article: ‘The Sandwich People’ a scheme to help homeless people

To find out more about how to buy (and thereby support) this great team visit their website The Sandwich People
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Girl Gotta Read

Here’s a newsflash…I like books.

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I once read somewhere that book lovers never go to bed alone and well I’m that. I read books in pretty much every stereotypical place, including in bed and I’ve woken up with a book is on the pillow on more than one occasion (‘oh God, 50 Shades of Grey, we didn’t…?’) But at the same time another reason why I never go to bed alone is because my room is packed full of books. It’s only now when I’m (tying) to have a clear out that I’m beginning to realise quite how many feature in my life. Call it a bit of soul searching, because I don’t care if you’re Mr Rockefeller or if you saved fifty refugees from a burning missionary school, if you don’t have time for literature then this ain’t gonna work out.

Think I’m being a bit over the top? Well here are all the types/places I keep my books. Bear in mind as well that these are just the ones in my bedroom.

 

Alice’s Books

I have a pile of unread books…

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…And a pile of recently read books

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(Before you ask I do a little bit of yoga which subsequently means I’m now super flexible. I used to do more but I have reason to believe it contributed to stuffing up my knee eighteen months ago but that’s a story for another day.)

I store books on my window shelves which is great because it means I don’t need to open/close my Venetian blinds when I get up every morning (I call them my ‘modesty books’)

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(That’s right, I own four Blue Peter badges but that’s a story for another day.)

I have intellectual reads

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I possess old book buyer catalogues (in case I ever needed more coffee table material)

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I own a box of old books

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I have books on the waitlist for more permanent accommodation

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I also have a few Alice books (aka photo albums) with glossy memories I value more than pixels. One of the best friend presents I ever got was the album titled ’21 Things I Love About Alice Bennett’ (left).

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And do not get me started on notebooks

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Good news though, I’ve recently purchased an oak bookcase so now I can purchase and store even more books! (I kid, I really need to clear a lot of these out and move the rest to the book case – except my modesty books.)

Looking to take my conversation engagement from 0 to 60? Give me a book and tell me why my life is poorer without it.

50 things to do instead of watching The Great British Bake Off

Recent article written for The National Student (a shortened version of the 100 point list I did last year):

50 things to do instead of watching The Great British Bake Off

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Famous Speeches Reimagined with Tea

Because the world would be a better place if we let out the hate and let in the tea.

 

Speech to the Troops at Tilbury Fort – Queen Elizabeth I

I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a strong tea drinker, and of a tea drinker of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade my beverage stocks on a Monday morning…

 

Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campaign – Napoleon Bonaparte

Soldiers, you are naked and ill tea-ed! Government owes you much and can give you nothing. The patience and courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable; but they gain you no renown; no glory results to you from your endurance. It is my design to lead you into the most fertile tea plains of the world. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power; there you will find honour, glory, and rich beverages. Soldiers of Italy! Will you be wanting in Breakfast or Earl Grey?”

 

We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches – Winston Churchill

We shall drink tea on the beaches, we shall drink tea on the landing grounds, we shall drink tea in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink tea in the hills; we shall never surrender…tea

 

I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be replanted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made green, and the crooked places will be made straight rowed, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation’s into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, coffee drinkers and tea lovers, knowing that we will all have tea one day.

 

Chairman Mao Zedong

An army without tea is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.

 

Neil Armstrong (on the invention of fruit tea)

That’s one small step for tea, one giant leap for mankind.

 

Dali Lama

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own action to make a good cup of tea.

 

Presidential Inauguration Speech – Donald Trump

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be only Tea First. Tea First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American Teabags and American Tea drinkers. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our caffeine, and destroying our mid-afternoon breaks. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down Mr PG Tips Monkey.

 

You get the idea.

Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Tea

A Complete Numpty’s Guide to Baking

Fairy Cakes à la Alice

This is a favourite recipe of mine, inspired by the immortal words of Tumblr:

“It’s not about the destination, but the journey”

You will need:

2 eggs

3oz caster sugar

3oz butter, softened

3oz self-raising flour (plus extra)

½ teaspoon baking powder

Fudge loads of random stuff to add in the name of ‘spur of the moment experimentation’

For decoration:

Cake cases that will undoubtedly prove to be too big or too small later on

An unqualified amount of icing sugar

Too much water OR too much butter

Fudge loads of random stuff to add in the name of ‘spur of the moment experimentation’

 

Method

Baking

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c (erm, gas mark…4?)
  2. Get out your twelve, holed, cake/bun tray thingy out (you know the one). Put cake cases in the holes and congratulate yourself for doing a good job thus far
  3. Weigh out ingredients (do people put ‘weigh out ingredients’ in the method? Or are you expected to have already done that? Oh well)
  4. Put flour, butter, sugar and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Whisk eggs separately and slowly add to the mixture whilst beating
  5. Once mixed you may think “this is a bit runny” in which case add extra flour. How much? The length of a piece of string
  6. Add random ingredients into the mix. Berries, flavourings, golden syrup (personal favourite), wine…
  7. Evenly divide mixture between the cake cases. Don’t forget to leave a suitable amount of batter behind for personal consumption.
  8. Put in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown. Put the TV on.
  9. About 20 minutes later suddenly realise the time, shout expletives and rush to the oven. Remove cakes just in time and leave to cool.

 

Post Dinner Decoration

  1. Place cakes on a plate or suitable decorating surface
  2. Lay out all items of decoration and take in a moment to visualise how amazing your cakes are going to look. No one will care about the burnt edges or iffy flavours but they will look like God’s gift when you’re done
  3. For butter cream icing mix icing sugar and butter and keep adding either ingredient to the mix until you final get the balance right and you find yourself with far too much icing
  4. For simple icing sugar and water combo (classic) most normal people add water to icing sugar. For the à la Alice version though, put about 100ml water into a bowl and add sugar. Realise you don’t have enough icing sugar. Rope in housemate to lend you her sugar. Discover that even this isn’t enough. Scream into a pillow.
  5. At 10pm, put on normal clothes and power walk down to local supermarket. Buy biggest bag of icing sugar they stock and rush back home
  6. Add icing sugar to water until it vaguely resembles icing. Add in more golden syrup (no reason). You’ll now have around a gallon of icing to cover twelve – fourteen small cakes
  7. Apply far too much icing to each cake so that it leaks over the top of the cases. Curse the cases for being too small
  8. Drizzle syrup on top, because one really can never have too much syrup. Mutter strong words when pretty syrup pattern melts into icing
  9. Go into desperation mode and stick literally anything and everything on top. Sprinkles, sugar, edible decorations, just anything

 

Finishing Off

Stand back and admire handiwork:

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Turn around and look at the carnage left behind:

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Tidy up the essentials, leaving the kitchen area looking like a scene from CSI Bake Off:

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The Aftermath

Eat/drink literally half a gallon of icing (i.e. pure sugar), eat one of the cakes and then have the world’s biggest sugar crash. Wake up the next morning with a sugar hangover and vowing to never go through that again in a hurry.

Take cakes into work, have them devoured by colleagues and be worshipped like a baking Goddess.

Voila! Fairy Cakes à la Alice = Baking success