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

We have arrived in Nepal

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Fun, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on May 8, 2010

I just wanted to let you know we arrived safely yesterday in Kathmandu. We made a quick stop over en-route in Dubai which was surreal but amazing. As we danced on the beach in Barasti it didn’t seem like just that morning we had been in the UK. From there we took our flight to Kathmandu. To be honest we slept through most of it.

We arrived at Kathmandu’s airport which was deadly quiet. We were the only two getting visas (which are $40 for 30 days) and left to find our bags were the only two bags next to the carousel. The airport was tiny. When we went outside things were as expected, no taxi’s just a tourist bus. We met up with our Friend Jenny and took the crowded slow Tourist Bus into Thamel. This costs 100Rps and is put on to help tourists during the Maouist  Strikes which had stopped public transport and shut shops and Restaurants except between 6-8pm. As we drove across the city we passed protesters and Riot Police with batons. The place was so quiet and the people were so apologetic for the strikes.

We ended up walking through the back  streets with a very friendly Nepalese man who took us to Pilgrim Guest House in Northern Thamel. This is the most amazing place, central, quiet, friendly, cheap and has a restaurant. All the things we were looking for!

As we walked through the streets it was lined with people just waiting for the strikes to be over not being able to go to school or work. Today there was better news though as the strikes were called off (until 28th May we hear due to peace talks) and things returned to normal. This meant busy streets with the smells of cooking, incense and petrol fumes on every corner. It was so busy today it was hard to walk down the streets which hardly compared with yesterday where we seemed to be the only ones moving. Today everyone had a purpose.  There seemed to be so much going on you couldn’t take it in. So many shops and food stalls and even a few sacred cows walking down the middle of the road.
We then made our way in our first Nepalese taxi to The Monkey Temple. This gives you are really good view of Kathmandu (after you have climbed the 350 steep steps). There are lots of monkeys and we even had a spin of the traditional prayer wheels for good luck! I may need it. This temple  is 200Rps for tourists.

After here we drove on through the narrow streets around the pot holes to Durbar Square. For a World Heritage site I found this a little disappointing. It was over run with people trying to sell you things, tour guides and holly men who wanted you to pay to have photos with them. This all got a little much for me and with it costing 300Rps to get in  to help with conservation, I wonder how much is going back into protecting the site. We escaped the madness and harassment by going up to one of the Rooftop Bars which gave us a great view of the square.

The food so far has been amazing and I have been eating lots of Indian and Nepalese Dishes from Dhal Baat  to Biryani. I can’t wait to try more but am staying vegetarian for the time being especially after the chickens I saw get their throughts slit today. The local Everest Beer is also going down well. Not so good was the mouse that ran past while we were finishing dinner tonight but I guess I will get used to it.

I’m off to meet the rest of my trek buddies tomorrow so am really excited to see what they are all like and tell you all about them. I have also picked up the last few things I needed for the trip today getting trekking poles for 300Rps  each. We also found Shona’s which is a good quality trekking shop we heard about. It is run by an English man from Birmingham and his Nepalese wife. It sells genuine trek gear at cheaper prices than the UK so really we could have picked up everything here. Ho hum!

Anyway, I will write again when I can to let you know how I am getting on. I apologise for any weird grammar and spelling in this post as the keyboard is Asian and really hard to use, even the people here seem a little afraid of it. My trek starts on Monday morning so Im trying to get some sleep while I can. Early nights and early starts for me. Night Night.

Thamel in Kathmandu

The View of Kathmandu from The Monkey Temple

Join Me on Everest? I’m Freshly Pressed

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Everest, Fun, Nepal, Travel, Uncategorized by Claire Burgess on May 4, 2010

Last Night after my last post I was totally overwhelmed when I posted my “I’m off to climb Mount Everest” blog post and it was chosen to be on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed front page. It meant lots of you visited  and posted questions and thought on my trip.

I just wanted to post my responses here so that I don’t miss anything and say A VERY BIG THANK YOU to anyone who posted kind words of encouragement and advice. 

floatfly said, on May 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Are you not worried that the recent political situation might affect your trip? There is currently a nationwide general strike, with most businesses shut, and maoist protesters filling the capital. Political change is long overdue in Nepal- but I am wondering whether to continue as planned with my own trip, flying to Nepal in 2 weeks time, or to scrap that idea and go to India for 3 months instead… There is currently no public transport in Kathmandu at all, not even taxis… I will be interested to hear how things go for you

Hi Floatfly, I have been watching this situation very closely. One of my friend’s Jenny is in Nepal already on a retreat although not in Kathmandu so she has been keeping me up to date from inside Nepal. To be honest, there is little information getting through to her at the moment though. I have checked with The Foreign Office and they think it is safe to travel, as do STA. In terms of transport, your right, no public transport is running but according to The Foreign Office Website some hotels are running buses as are the Nepal Tourist Board. And to be fair, if I have to walk it will be good practice for the Trek. I think I will take Morealtitude’s advice bellow.

morealtitude said, on May 4, 2010 at 6:17 am

Have fun with your adventure Claire. Nepal is a stunning country and a ramble up to EBC should be a hoot. I hope it leaves you with lots of great memories. I’m more than a little jealous and looking forward to the next chance I get to return to Nepal and hit up the same trail.

In response to floatfly’s concern about the political question, it is of course always a concern at the back of the mind that your logistics might get a little snarled by protests, but to be honest the Maoists know as well as anyone that tourism of the sort you’re coming to do brings huge revenues for Nepal, and they’re generally pretty good about not disrupting it too much. When I trekked to Annapurna Base Camp in late 2007 there were lots of the same concerns around political unrest, but we went through the country just fine and had a great trip. The Nepalese are beautiful, beautiful people and the country is magnificent. Take your chances and have a great time.

johnhauge said, on May 3, 2010 at 7:26 pm

i wonder if you’re going to pick up after yourself or just leave your litter in place like everyone before you?      just a thought.

John, I will of course be picking up after myself. This year a great effort is being made on Everest to clear up some of the rubbish that has been left by travelers and I hope to help where I can. We will be taking Metal drinking bottles not plastic and I will be sure to leave nothing behind.

Mike said, on May 3, 2010 at 9:43 pm

this is going to be a great blog. be sure to keep everyone updated. I’m curious what type of training went into this. Not only endurance, but high altitude?

I always felt as though i could train for the endurance aspect of something like this if i really wanted to, although i consider myself a strength athlete; it’s the high altitude that always concerned me…

Hi Mike, I have been walking lots. My next post will be include some of my notes on the training I have been doing. I was really concerned about this to begin with but most people I have spoken to say that if your endurance is good you tend to survive the altitude sickness better. We are lucky that our trip has lots of rest time to adjust. Your more at risk if your body doesn’t have time to adjust.

Jim Hagen said, on May 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Do you really think that the carbon footprint of your trip is worth feeding your ego?

Jim, you make a valid point but all I can say is that as someone who doesn’t own a car, I feel that if I can share this trip with you, and people like you to save you going then surely it is!

pepperedskye said, on May 4, 2010 at 10:41 am

Good Luck, sounds like it will be amazing, will you be taking photos?

Dan Wade said, on May 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

Sounds like an amazing adventure! You have to post pictures and stories!

http://danjswade.wordpress.com

Dan and Pepper, I will be taking lots of photos. I’m no professional photographer but I will try to do the best I can to show you what it’s like. I will of course share my stories. I will try to blog where I can and where I can’t I will be writing in my notebook to write-up for you later.

Agung Putradi said, on May 4, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I like this, Maybe I can climb this mount too.

Agung, don’t just think about it… DO IT! Go on… I dare you! If I survive this then anyone can.

I’m off to climb Mount Everest

Posted in Claire Burgess, Dubai, Everest, Fun, Nepal, Travel by Claire Burgess on May 3, 2010

This Thursday I’m off to Nepal to climb to Everest Base Camp so I though I would do some posts about everything I have been doing in preparation. This might help you out if you are planning a trip there as I was totally confused by all the information online. It also means you can come along with me for the ride and enjoy it all from the comfort of your own computer.

I decided to go to climb Everest with some close friends I used to live in Thailand with, Jemma and Jenny. When we were in Thailand in 2004 Jemma met a group of travelers who had been traveling for years to locations all over the globe. She asked them “Where is the best place you’ve been to?” They all agreed it was Everest Base Camp. And then in September Jemma got us together and asked if we wanted to go and see what all the fuss was about. Because I don’t like to back down from a challenge (and because I had drunk far too much Rose) I agreed! God knows why? I have absolutely no climbing experience and apart from the marathon I ran 2 years ago and the half marathon I did last year, I have never really been too into keeping fit.

Anyway, peer pressure aside, we signed up to STA’s Everest Adventure which you can find here

This is a 15 day trip which should mean that we aren’t going up too quickly. The trip accommodates around 12 people and because we booked early only cost us just over £500 not including flights. After a lot of research I found that one of the cheapest ways to fly to Katmandu was to go via Dubai. Luckey, I have friends there but even so you can get direct flights from London to Dubai for very reasonable prices if you book in advance or check Travel Supermarket then change onto a Dubai Budget Airline Fly Dubai for the Dubai-Kathmandu leg. This meant our flights came in at £450 return and we even get to stop in Dubai for a night out en-route. We are going to spend a few days in Kathmandu before we start to get over any jet lag and get ourselves acclimatised and a few days after to let our hair down and recover.

There are lots of different treks around but lots of people seem to recommend STA. I will let you know how I found it when I get back. Here’s the itinerary for the trek that we have been given by them:

Day 1 Arrive Kathmandu

Arrive in Kathmandu at any time.

Day 2-4 Pakding/ Namche Bazaar

Heading through pine and cedar woods along the Dudh Kosi to Pakding, encounter your first yak caravans carrying trekking equipment and supplies – including yours – towards base camp. Spend a day acclimatizing in Thame. Intricately carved mani stones mark the path to this large valley.

Day 5 Tengboche

Leaving Namche, the route is unbelievably beautiful. Hike through Sherpa villages and forests of fir and rhododendron to reach Tengboche Monastary, home to Tengboche Rinpoche, a Lama incarnate.

Day 6-7 Dingboche

Walk through alpine meadows of scrub juniper and wild flowers. From Dingboche, the mountain views are outstanding. Hike up the Imja Khola. The fluted ice walls flanking the Amphu Lapcha pass are one of the highlights of the trek.

Day 8-10 Lobuche/ Everest Base Camp

Climbing above the tree line, cross alpine pastures and glacial moraine to reach Everest Base Camp where colourful expedition tents give a bizarre appearance to this desolate place surrounded by walls of rock, snow and ice.

Day 11-13 Tengpoche/ Mongo/ Lukla

Descend the Imja Khola past Pangboche, the highest permanent settlement. Its gompa, the oldest in Khumbu, is built over the hermitage of Khumbu’s saint Lama Sanga Dorje.

Day 14 Kathmandu

You made it! Take a well-deserved rest and enjoy one last day with your fellow trekkers in this bustling city.

Day 15 Depart Kathmandu

Man In Box

Posted in Fun, Media, Radio by Claire Burgess on March 15, 2010

There are just over 13hours left of Tim Shaw’s Man In Box. Tim is locked into a steel box that is 3 feet high, 4.5 feet wide and 8 feet long. His only daily highlight has been a delivery of basic food and water through a tiny double-skinned hatch. He is somewhere in the UK and will stay there for a total of 30days (or until he is found). He has no idea where he is accept for the fact it is somewhere significant that he has been before. If you find him in the next 13 hours you will get £30,000.

I met Tim a couple of times whilst working at Kerrang! and have always found his radio to be some of the most creative around. Now I wish I could just work out where he could be! You can work it out too here

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Do you speak Panda?

Posted in Cute, Fun, Language, Media by Claire Burgess on February 14, 2010

I have a secret love of Panda’s. They are just so cute! Then a couple of weeks ago I saw this story in The Metro. If only I spoke Panda.

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/world/811531-chinese-lessons-required-for-giant-panda

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Muchuu Garden Party

Posted in Birmingham UK, Fun, Live Music, Music by Claire Burgess on August 18, 2009

On Thursday I will be going to the Muchuu Garden Party. Really looking forward to it. Anyone can come so if you fancy a good time with some great music then come along. You can also see some of the photos from the last Muchuu party here

Invite

The Big Chill 2009

Posted in Claire Burgess, Festival, Fun, Live Music by Claire Burgess on August 18, 2009

This year’s festival certainly lived up to its name. The sun shined all weekend at Eastnor which made for a very laid back vibe. Massive highlights for the weekend included Basement Jaxx, Friendly Fires as well as lying on the grass in the sun. Other excellent surprises included Mr Scruff’s Tea Tent, Russel Howard and Hafdis Huld. For anyone who missed it here are some of my memories bellow. I can’t wait to get my ticket for next year!

Our Tent for the weekend

Our Tent for the weekend

Pacman being chased by the ghosts

Pacman being chased by the ghosts

Mike pours us tea in Mr Scruff's Tent

Mike pours us tea in Mr Scruff's Tent

Looking down to the stages

Looking down to the stages

The BIG Sign on the hills

The BIG Sign on the hills

Peddal Power- generating the electricity for the festival

Peddal Power- generating the electricity for the festival

Every year there always seems to be someone at the festival that you see by accident that surprises you. For me this year it was Hafdis Huld. She was very funny and charmed the audience with stories including one about how she thought it was rock n roll to get her belly button pierced. Some of this unfortunately didn’t translate into her song though. Never the less, thanks to Adam Bannister (@rrargh) you can check her out here.

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Skittles Vodka

Posted in Blogging, Claire Burgess, Drink, Fun, Uncategorized by Claire Burgess on August 12, 2009
 

Whilst preparing for the 1st Muchuu Party last month I got talking to Milky from Muchuu about a new drink she had found on a night out… Skittles Vodka. Having looked it up I found that you can’t actually buy it in a shop but instead have to make your own (Blue Peter style!) so with the help of this guide I made my own. I found some parts of the guide a little confusing so here is my very first How To Guide (for people like me who never normally attempt stuff like this for fear of blowing things up/braking things or just making a massive mess!)

You Will Need

To make 5x 250ml of Skittles Vodka you will need:

1.25 liters of Vodka

500g Skittles

5 plastic bottles

5 glasss bottles (250ml)

A funnel

A  jug

Some bleach free kitchen roll

I got all of this from Tescos except my glass bottles which I got from here. One was broken in transit so I had to improvise and use a small vodka bottle.

Step 1

Seperate out all your Skittles. You should have around equal ammounts. I didn’t and this is why my orange flavour vodka didn’t work out. Out of 500g of Skittles I only had around 20 orange skittles. I think you need around 40 plus for this to work.

The Skittles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2

Seperate all your vodka out between the 5 plastic bottles and add one of your pots of skittles to each bottle. I did this by hand as it is easier and means you can wash your hands after each colour.

Hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3

Once all the skittles are in the bottles put the lids on and give the bottles a shake

Shake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4

Put your bottles to one side until all the skittles have fully dissolved. For this size batch it took about 24hrs with me shaking them whenever I had the chance.

Bottles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5

Once all the Skittles have dissolved take a piece of kitchen paper and place it over your  jug. Pour the infused vodka onto the paper slowly so that the paper will filter and of the Skittles gung out and leave you with you Skittles vodka in the jug. This process may need to be repeated with some flavours as some colours need more filtering that others. The pour into your glass bottle using your funnel. Be sure to wash everything out thouroughly after each flavour.

Filtering

 

 

 

 

 

 

You should now have 5 bottles of lovely Skittles Vodka. As you can see, I only ended up with 4 which is typical! It should be served chilled in shots or mixed with lemonaid to make your party go with a rainbow coloured bang.

 

My Skittles Vodka
My Skittles Vodka