Claire Burgess’s Blog

My Very First (EASY) Victoria Sponge

Posted in Claire Burgess, Food, Fun by Claire Burgess on April 12, 2012

This Easter I’ve been learning lots of new skills including making my very first Victoria Sponge Cake to take to my boyfriend’s parents for Sunday Lunch.

I looked around online and found this great Nigella recipe on the Something Cakey blog. I struggle with recipes sometimes that contain so many ingredients and are really difficult to follow. This is REALLY EASY. If I can make it then anyone can. If you need a cake that can impress then here it is:

Ingredients

250g each of self raising flour, castor sugar, butter

4 large eggs

2 tsps baking powder

2 tsp vanilla extract

2-3 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 200*C

Method

Add butter and sugar to a bowl and cream.

Alternate a couple of spoonfuls of flour and 1 egg until all the flour is added. add baking powder.

Add vanilla extract and milk until consistency of a thick batter.

Pour into 2 cake tins (I used 2 9inch non-stick Asda Smart Price tins and greased them with butter ) and bake in oven @ 200*c for 15-20 mins. Then turn down oven to 180*c and bake for a further 35-45 mins. Keep an eye on it and reduce heat a little if you think it is too hot! I moved mine lower in the oven.

Leave to cool in cake tin for a while then turn out onto a wire rack. Leave until completely cool to ice however you choose. I used 3/4 250g Jar of Jam and 3/4 a tub of Betty Crocker Buttercream style icing.

Here’s what I ended up with – YUMMY!

My very first Victoria Sponge Cake

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The Couchsurfers

Posted in Claire Burgess, Fun, Travel by Claire Burgess on September 11, 2011

Since moving to Peterborough I have met some amazing people though a website called Couchsurfing. It’s like Facebook but for people who travel. If you move to a new place or are going somewhere new on holiday I totally recommend it.

I stayed with my first Couchsurfer for New Year in 2009 in New York, CJ. Having sent out lots of messages we finally got a reply. My sister and I turned up at his apartment just off 5th Avenue for a week staying on his couch. initially, a totally terrifying experience not helped by the fact that most of my friends thought he was probably going to turn out to be an axe murder or smoother me with a pillow in my sleep. As it turns out he was totally amazing. He didn’t seem to mind having English Twins sleeping on his sofa for 10 days…funny that?! and showed us all around his city. Including how to work out the ridiculously complicated subway, a Japanese karaoke bar and some of the best pizza the city has to offer. It was so much more than a free place to stay. CJ even had a long-term Couchsurfer who would stay regularly when she was passing through…she even had her own closet!

CJ shared his tips for how to pick out if a Couchsurfer was ok to stay on your couch.
1. They must wear a shirt in their profile photo
2. They must be small enough so they can’t take your tv

In fact, Couchsurfing is quite safe because you leave references for people you meet and stay with.

Peterborough has a really active Couchsurfing community, maybe because lots of people who live here are from elsewhere? I joined their group on the site and said hello when I first arrived here and had loads of friends ever since. I don’t know if it’s because we are all people who realise that Couchsurfers aren’t axe murders that brings us together or that it’s just we are all interested in meeting new people from all over. Whatever it is, they all seem like very cool people to me.

A Couchsurfer's trip to Skegness

Punting with some Couchsurfers in Cambridge

Safari and Home

Posted in Claire Burgess, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 16- Tuesday 26th May

We got up early this morning to go on a safari in Chitwan National Park. We went out in the jeep again which we discovered was still running from the 1960’s. We got a long wooden boat across the river to look for crocodiles. We saw one as we went along the river just a few feet away. It was scary being so close to something so big. When we got off the boat we walked through the jungle until we reached an elephant sanctuary. Here we saw a rare set of twin elephants with their mother and lots of other elephants.

We then headed back to the river where we were last night to watch the sunrise to see the elephants with their mahouts getting a wash. They were all really funny getting washed and playing around . The mahouts didn’t seem scared at all of the huge creatures.

Later in the day we did the very last part of the safari and took a ride on an elephant into the jungle to see what we would see. We spotted a peacock, a mother and baby rhino and some deer. The elephant was a little naughty for his mahout and kept stopping to eat all the time. That made it more of an adventure for us though as we sat on the top.

The next morning we headed back to Kathmandu and are heading back to the UK tomorrow. It’s been a great adventure all round and a great experience. If your thinking of heading to Nepal to go to base camp or just to see what happens then I totally recommend it. I have had an amazing, tiring, surprising time and hope to go back one day. I have loved meeting lots of lovely people along the way. Thanks for coming on this journey with me.

Love Claire x

Chitwan National Park

Posted in Claire Burgess, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 15- Monday 25th May

We got up early this morning. Before the streets were busy to get the  bus to Chitwan National Park.  The streets in Kathmandu were much easier to walk down. We got to the bus stop and got on the little green bus. This is where we spent the next 6hrs listening to very cheesy pop music as we drove down winding roads along the edge of cliffs. We kept overtaking other busses on blind bends where we were all holding our breath and trying not to look. The roads were bumpy and at times you felt like you were on a big roller coaster. As we travelled along the road the senery outside the window changed from the big city to the green fields.

We arrived at a small village just outside of the park called Surgha. We were collected via an open top jeep and taken to our guest house swerving goats, cows, ducks and chickens that were wondering in the road. We wondered around the village being greeted by lots of smiling faces before watching the sun set at the side of the river on the edge of the national park. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Pashupatinath

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 14- Sunday 23rd May 2010

We have moved back to Pilgrims Guest House where we stayed on our 1st night in Kathmandu. We are having a little bit of trouble adjusting back into the pace of Kathmandu after the peace and quiet on the mountains. It’s hard going having all the cars beeping and people trying to sell you things all the time.

Some of us that were still in Kathmandu following the trek went to Pashupatinath today, a complex of temples and cremation area used by Hindus. Getting there from Thamel was an adventure. 6 of us piled into a taxi- Adam even had to get into the boot. We were swerving vehicles  and missing them only by millimeters then crossing oncoming traffic. Then at a busy junction at the top of a hill we stalled. I thought we might have to get out and push until the driver opened the engine from inside the van with his screwdriver and got things going again as if it happened all the time.

We all found Pashupatinath very different from how we had imagined. It is meant to be the best place in Nepal for Hindu’s to be cremated as the water that surrounds the temples is considered holly. What we weren’t expecting was for ceremonies to be so public. From the river bank we could see a dead body being carried on a stretcher covered only by a serrong. The body was then placed onto one of the plinths on some blocks of wood before the moth of the dead person was set alight by one of the male relatives. The body was then covered in straw that had been soaked in the holly water. When nothing but ash was left it was shoveled into the river. It was kind of shocking. Crowds of people were stood watching while some tourists were filming. Nobody knew what to make of it.

At night those of us still in Kathmandu had one final meal before all going our separate ways. We were just tooking in when the rain began to poor down. The Nepalese consider this lucky as this means the Monsoon is going to start soon. We practically needed armbands to swim back to our rooms. We said our final goodbyes  and that was it…. just the 3 of us again.

Tomorrow we are going to Chitwan National Park in the south of Nepal. Hopefully we will see some Rhino’s or maybe even a Tiger.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 13 – Saturday 22nd May 2010

Everyone was up early to catch the plane back to Kathmandu. We all watched the tiny planes taking off and landing nervously on Lukla’s tiny runway. The planes come in so close to the mountains and we all held our breath as we watched to see if the pilots could move around the airport hotel at the side of the runway just in time.

Lukla airport is absolutely tiny, just two check-in desks and it took only 5 minutes to get through security and on to the plane.  Everyone boarded the plane sitting in single file, looking out of the window and looking forward into the cockpit as our air hostess did the rounds with sweets and cotton wool.

The engine started and we watched as the plane cleared the runway and the mountains (not by much!) As the plane went up we could see right across the mountains as they peeped above the clouds. It was Josh’s Birthday and we all sang Happy Birthday before sitting back into the flight.

Within 45 minutes we were landing back in Kathmandu back where we had started. As the bus took us back to the hotel we couldn’t wait to have a shower and put on some clean clothes. I also couldn’t wait to have some fruit. We all spent the rest of the day getting cleaned up to feel human again.  I think I must have been in the shower for over an hour.

At night we went to Rum-doodle for a final meal together. This place is a favourite with trekkers and they even give free drinks to anyone who has summited Everest. They gave us a foot shaped card and we all left a message and stuck it on to the wall.  In the morning some of the group were leaving for home so this was the official end of the trip. I was really kind of sad to think that having spent so long together and having this amazing adventure we might not see each other again.

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The Last Day

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal by Claire Burgess on August 29, 2010

Day 12 – Friday 21st May 2010

Today was the last day of walking. We headed back from Chumua to Lukla where we started. It was a 8km walk but felt like it too forever. Maybe because we were so nearly home. My legs were starting to give up because there were so many uphills. It was so hard.  We past more and more people the lower we got. We past some children who live along the path. One around the age of 3 or 4 was ‘playing in the front garden breaking up rocks with a hammer.

We meat a man on the path who had made it all the way to Camp 4 on Everest and was on his way back. He sprung up the hill faster than any of us. After nearly 7hrs we made it. It was such a relief. All of us were fine and happy to have made it there and back in one piece – and to take off our really smelly boots!
We met back up with Rob who had made it back from Kala Patthar  to Lukla in 26hrs with one of the guides Krishner. No one had ever heard of this being done before. Everyone celebrated in different ways…some with Starbucks (available in Lukla) some with cake or a samosa… I just wanted a drink. We headed out for a few pints of Everest and some cocktails. We didn’t even care that it was still light. We couldn’t stop smiling and danced the night away. It was so great to all be together. I can’t believe I had only met some of these people a couple of weeks ago.  As the night ticked on our thoughts were all turning to the next adventure, the next country, the next challenge or mountain.

On my ipod – Empire of the sun – Walking on a Dream


(Failing) Down

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal by Claire Burgess on August 3, 2010

Day 11- Thursday 20th May

Today started so much easier than the previous. We started by being woken by building work and a very noisy cockerel but everyone had more energy. We only had 5 hours trekking 8km from Kyangjuma to Chumua.

We now have 70% oxygen, and with more and more oxygen as we’re coming down it all gets easier. We stopped for lunch at Namche Bazar. We looked around the stalls and the boys went to sample goods from every bakery – all 4 of them. They spent lots of time talking about food. We all do.

I started to feel a bit sick so had to have a lunchtime sleep. This may be a side effect of the diomax. Apparently you can also get some altitude sickness coming down.

After lunch we trekked down past the police check point which was like a shed. Weirdly someone had stuck a mug shot photo of a white man on the outside. He looked like something out of Rogue Traders.

We trekked on through the afternoon and I managed to cut my knee and rip my trousers. I was tired and being dopey and now I have a scare to remind me of the trip.

We got to the tea house to find lots of building work going on and lots and lots of noise. It sounded like the roof was going to fall in on us. Luckily building work like lots of things stops after dark.

I can’t believe tomorrow we will be back in Lukla where it all started.

I was walking along this afternoon and slipped on the sandy path. Often you can skid on the paths because they are so sandy. Luckily I stopped before I fell off the cliff. It all happened in slow motion and luckily our guide Dawa appeared just in time.

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Smelly Feet and Sunburn

Posted in Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal by Claire Burgess on August 3, 2010

Day 10- Wednesday 19th May

I got up this morning after a long sleep and felt so much better. Soon the adventure would be over but my feet didn’t hurt as much anymore and everyone seemed to have so much more energy.

After a breakfast of Chapati & omelette which went down so well, we headed down to Kyangjuma which is at 3550 metres and has 64% oxygen. It was already starting to feel easier to walk with the symptoms of altitude getting easier every day.

Don’t get me wrong, the walk was still hard today, took 7 hours and I now have sunburnt hands, a blister on my palm from my poles and increasingly smelly feet that should come with a health warning.

On the way back though I am taking more time to look at the view and enjoy it. Today we even saw a mountain goat precariously staggering down the side of a cliff.

It’s also nice seeing people going up who are heading for base camp and cheering them on. Also having people cheer us on as we come down (which sometimes means we have to go up a bit too). Today a guy said to me (I think in Spanish) – “You can do it, you are a strong lady.”

Not long to go now either. I just hope my knees can make it!

Fred fixed my iPod today so I can start listening to music again tomorrow.

Kala Patthar

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Nepal by Claire Burgess on July 27, 2010

Day 9- Tuesday 18th May

Today was a hellish day.  We got up at 3.30am to go to the top of Kala Patthar which is 5500 metres and only has 50 % oxygen.  This is higher than Everest Base Camp.  We all set off in the dark with our head torches on.  It was so hard getting out of the most comfortable bed we had had so far and then when we got outside it almost felt claustrophobic because we could only see where the light was shining in the path.

We walked for about 45 minutes through the cold and cloud when our guide Dawa said the weather was too bad to see Everest or the sun rise so we would only be trekking for the height.  Jemma, Jenny and I were only going for the view, so he told us we could go back if we wanted.  We turned around with one of the guides Krishna and headed back to bed.  Krishna forgot his key so ran back to the group and back again.  We got back to the house and I climbed back into bed.  I had just shut my eyes when there was a frantic knock at the door.  It was Bebek.  He said the weather had cleared up and we should go back.  So we did!

We left again at around 5.30am and managed to drag ourselves up there.  My legs felt like lead and it was like trying to breathe through a straw. Amazingly, I made it up there last but only around 15 minutes behind those that left at 4am.

The view was amazing.  You could see Everest and right across the valley.  I would totally recommend it even though it is a bit of a battle.

By the time we got back to the Tea House it was 8am and I was all out of energy even though we now had 6 hours walking down towards Luklar to do.  Every part of me hurt, especially my knees.  Our guide Dawa literally dragged me along.  Will gave me the mantra F.I.D.O. (from the Marines) which means “Fight It, Drive On.”  All I knew was that I just had to keep going so I could find a bed to sleep.  We were heading to Pheruche which is at 4270 metres and at least had more oxygen at 57%

We lost one of our team today.  Rob had an emergency and managed our 6 hour trek with Krishna in just 2 hours.  He then headed straight to Lukla.  The group hasn’t been the same without him and really miss him cheering us all up and being daft.

Towards the end of the day the clouds came rolling in and it felt like we were walking right through them.  The landscape also started to look more like Scotland than Nepal as the wind whipped around the valley.

I got a massive blister on my little toe from all the downhill walking which is starting to feel more difficult than uphill.  This can’t compare to the porters I saw today carrying so many planks of wood uphill.  I don’t know how they manage.  Some of them look so young.

You will be pleased to know that I had another shower today. Whoop whoop! It was freezing cold though after and I had to sleep with all my clothes on!