Fancy Hands: virtual assistance of the fanciest kind

Fancy Hands is a team of assistants who can help you do your work. Start knocking things off your to do list by assigning them to your own, living, breathing, Fancy Hands assistant.

Doesn’t it sound like a compelling offer? A digital right hand man or woman, ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

The assistants are all based in the US, but the service is available all over the world – as long as they can use a computer or a phone to achieve it – they can do it. I’ve had no problem being on the other side of the pond; in fact I’ve had help on both local tasks and even a task which require making a phone call to New Zealand.

Here are some of the tasks I’ve had the wonderful assistants help out with:

  • Find interviews/articles on souschef.co.uk
  • Find cool cases for my Nexus 5 phone
  • What are some cocktails with milk?
  • Edit Google Docs spreadsheet
  • Call Private Box and cancel mail holding service
  • Reccomend me three email marketing books
  • Research three savoury pie recipes
  • Look up tide times (for mudlarking!)
  • Research vintage stores in Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Screengrab social media accounts for the following brands

To date I have made 107 requests, had 61 calls made on my behalf and scheduled one event… saving approximately 1.5 days of time. When creating task requests you do have to be a bit prescriptive, but I take it on the chin as practice in the fine art of writing a brief.

Get Fancy, save some of your precious time. This is a referral link, but I would only recommend things I truly love, so trust me on this one. Plus, you’ll get half price on the first month.

La Piscine

La Piscine is a museum of art and industry, located in the city of Roubaix in northern France – part of the Lille metropolitan area. It’s about 20 minutes away from Lille Flandres train station on the metro.

piscine

And what a treat it is! A contemporary art museum, housed in an art-deco public swimming pool.   Set across several levels, the main pool area remains a central focus, with sculptures lining a shallow body of water. Every so often the sound of children laughing and splashing is piped in, adding to the atmosphere.

piscine-stained-glassLille Piscine Statue

The showers and changing rooms are either used as walkways from one room to the next, or they house exhibition pieces. The gift store is perched alongside enormous tanks in the old filtration room, and what used to be the refreshment area has become a restaurant.

changing-roomStatue of a woman at La PiscinePool Tiles - La Piscine

Definitely worth a jaunt if you’re in the area!

Learning to code

How would you instruct someone to make a cup of tea if they had never done it before? This was a logic exercise we tackled in the very first session of 23 Code Street.

It sounds like a rather random activity on first consideration, but making a cup of tea, switching on a light or firing up your favourite website… These are all things we take for granted in our everyday life. But how does it all work?

Enter: the coding class – 12 weeks of getting to grips with HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, JQuery, SQL and an introduction to Python. All in the company of a great group of women who are also starting at the beginning.

As I’ve been declining any social invitations for Monday and Thursday nights, people inevitably ask, ‘Why do you want to learn to code’? Good question. Code is at the heart of what I do for a living – taking people’s ideas and bringing them to life online. Let’s be honest, I spend most of my working hours on the internet and embarrassed to say my coding experience ended about the same time MySpace fell out of fashion!

So far the bits and pieces of HTML and CSS I’ve gleaned I have been able to instantly implement: I’ve edited my employer’s website to use HTML class attributes and change font specifications with one line of code, and made sense of a website brief with regards to being mobile adaptive vs responsive.

Responsive - Adaptive

 

It’s said that “Diversity increases innovation and success,” and innovation is something that really motivates me. I also hope that learning the mechanics will help me bridge the knowledge gap for my clients and be a better part of my team.

At the end of the course I also would like to create a website/service for my industry that I’ve spotted a gap for, as well as an online portfolio… Watch this space!

Let’s Get Digital

Let's Get Digital

The actual photo, taken by Ted Thai in 1981. Ted Thai / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty

 

 

Some things… June 2016

Lion ring

Sharla-La jewellery. I love my lion head door knocker ring. Sharla told me she loves casting things from miniatures, and this wee beastie is from a doll’s house.

Orange is the New Black. Colour me obsessed. I am smitten with this show. Belatedly as usual. But just in time to binge watch three series of prison life and be fresh and ready for season four.

23 Code Street.  Teaching women to code through short evening courses, 23 Code Street is a social enterprise that enables a disadvantaged woman in India to learn how to code for every paying student. I am starting a course on Monday night, and I am so pumped! I never use that word, so yeah, immeasurable excitement.

Vermicomposting. I have approximately 1600 to 2000 composting worms in my backyard eagerly devouring kitchen waste – coffee grounds, teabags, vegetable peelings… Good work guys!  It’s been a little tough setting up – referring to Google often with questions like do worms like  tomatoes – but we are getting there with all of the household food waste being split between a 330L compost bin and the wormery.

The Art of Dim Sum. Who doesn’t love a food documentary? I recently really enjoyed The Art of Dim Sum, a short documentary about a Hong Kong dim sum eatery, Sam Hai Yat (Pokfulam Road), and the craft of making delicious ‘little bundles of joy’.

Recipe: Pulled ‘Pork’ with Jack-fruit

What’s large, green, and roughly the size of a child? If you’re a bit of a know-it-all like me, chances are you would have answered durian. But it’s not – the answer is jack-fruit. Hailed as drought and pest resistant super crop, the Guardian thinks we’ll soon be seeing a lot more of jack-fruit on both vegetarian and omnivore menus  alike.

Jackfruit on the tree

Having been a veggie for nearly ten years now, I have to admit I haven’t been very adventurous beyond the old cheese and pasta combination. Until recently. A large part of that has been living in wonderful London where interesting ingredients on the whole are much more widely available than in New Zealand (check out souschef.co.uk for a literal taster), and partly working on a few adventurous food brands such as Lurpak, which prided itself on being a go-to for creative cooks, and Magimix, which is an amazing set of whizzy kitchen appliances.

It was with a sense of trepidation I picked up some jack-fruit cans in my local Asian supermarket (Longdan Express, in Shoreditch). You can buy it fresh locally, I’ve heard Brixton Market has it, but I wasn’t fussed.

Jackfruit

Pulled Jack-fruit – adapted from Club Mexicana’s recipe

  • 1 tsp chilies, finely chopped – I used Very Lazy chopped red chilies to save myself time/money on an ingredient I don’t use very often!
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped – again, I used Very Lazy chopped garlic. 1 tsp = 1 clove
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 0.25 tsp cayenne
  • 250ml tomato sauce
  • Juice of two limes
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tins of jack-fruit in brine (this is still quite an epic feast)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Fry the garlic & chilies in oil for a minute in a saucepan. Add all the spices, stir and cook until fragrant. Add tomato sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Stir until all the sugar has melted. Partially cover and keep cooking on a low heat until sauce has thickened to the consistency of ketchup.

Drain and thoroughly rinse the tinned jack-fruit. It is quite creepy if you’re not used to meat as it feels rather fleshy! Use your hands to tear the strands of jack-fruit apart – it will certainly start to feel meat-like (kind of reminds me of tuna?)

The jack-fruit does have a harder core, much like a pineapple, so take a knife to these pieces if needed. Also, the seeds are large and a little slimy, you can flick these out with a knife if you so wish.

Heat oil in a fresh pan and add the pulled jack-fruit. Cook until “it gets a bit grey and loses some moisture.” Add the Dijon mustard and stir in.

Pro tip: Always use a wooden or plastic spoon when you’re handling mustard… Mustard has the power to corrode metal spoon, which can play with the flavours.

Pulled Jackfruit

Add about half the BBQ sauce (more if you want a very sticky dish) and stir in to coat. Cook until it’s almost starting to get a little crispy and sticking to the pan a little. If it’s sticking a lot, feel free to add a dash of water and keep it moving.

Serve as you would normally enjoy some hot pulled pork (or not!) – in tacos, in a sweet burrito wrap, stacked with guac, slathered in sour cream. Whatever takes your fancy. Sadly no pictures of my final creation, but here is the pulled jack-fruit; which very nearly tricked the omnivores I fed it to!

Pulled Jackfruit

Lille

I visited Lille, in northern France, last weekend for a city break. Why Lille? It’s one stop on the Eurostar from London on the way to both Brussels and Paris, and I was always curious as to what lay beyond the station platform.Lille

It turns out Lille is a very picturesque city that borders with Belgium, with everything you want in a French getaway – a big Sunday morning food and flea market; numerous patisseries; Europe’s biggest bookstore.

croissant-lille

Did I mention as well, on a fast train, it’s only one hour and twenty minutes from London St. Pancras? That’s the same time it can take to get to Birmingham!

city-bike-lillecoffee-cups-franceThese cups remind me of my friends Monica and Graham! The beautiful and the beautifully bearded.Companions of the Grape

Dinner one night was at Les Compagnons de la Grappe (the companions of the grape). While it was a little chilly outside in the evening, it was fun to sit in the courtyard and admire their insane murals. I love the gnome!
Pride eclairsIt was Lille Pride while I was there, and I very much admired these exquisitely decorated eclairs. Printed, perhaps?

Suze - Lille

I spent Sunday morning in the suburb of Wazemmes, around a half hour’s stroll from the city centre. I love flea markets… The suburb where I grew up, Takapuna, had a market every Sunday morning in the central car park from 6am until 12pm, and it was a rare weekend when we didn’t pop in for fruit and veggies, homemade soap, paint or some other errand. This one in Lille, has a similar hodge-podge of goods at its heart, including women’s shoes for two euros!

Mirror, Lillehortensia PatisserieBadminton Raquets french-pupI would definitely visit Lille again – it’s a cheaper(!), more relaxed alternative to Paris. Certainly less tourists in town… Perhaps in September for Grande Braderie de Lille – Europe’s largest flea market.

Glasgow – Mini City Guide

IMG_20160531_081312

So called problems: when you’ve barely finished sorting out the photographic remains – and washing – of your last trip when a new one rolls around… I was in Glasgow this week for work, and decided to come up ahead of the rest of the crew and spend my bank holiday Monday in Scotland.

Luckily for me it was the most glorious three days – bluebird skies and sunshine warm enough to make everyone strip off in the park. As I was there on a mission to find out what visitors to the city would enjoy, I thought I’d share my discoveries with you too.


SLEEP

  • Citizen M is a hotel of the future. Think cool iPad controlled lighting, windows, media and sound for you room, plus the biggest (XXL), comfiest bed ever. Even while making a starfish shape I only took up around half of it.
  • I also stayed at the centrally located Z Hotel – which had some delightful touches: bacon rolls at breakfast and a free cheese and wine buffet for guests each evening.

Citizen M hotel


SEE

  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery/Museum (below, a photo of the Floating Heads by Sophie Cave) – is a free cultural attraction with beautiful architecture. Make sure to take a detour through Kelvingrove Park, too!
  • The Necropolis and Cathedral area in East Glasgow.
  • The Lighthouse – Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Climb up to the top of the tower to be rewarded with a great view of the city.
  • If you’d like to see a Highland coo (that’s a cow to everyone outside of Scotland), head to Pollok Country Park on the south side of the city.
  • There’s loads of great large-scale street art to be found throughout the city too, so keep your eyes peeled.

Kelvingrove

Street Art Glasgow

Glasgow view

lighthouse-glasgow

Downtown Glasgow


EAT

  • Riverhill Cafe serves great coffee and their restaurant next door is a nice place for breakfast. Check out my vegetarian feast – complete with tatty scone!
  • Venture down a grubby alley in central Glasgow to find Stereo, a performance space with an interesting vegan cafe/bar above. I thoroughly enjoyed my quesadillas! The 78 in Finnieston also comes highly recommended by vegans and non vegans alike.
  • The Willow Tea Rooms were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1904 in his distinctive Art Nouveau style, and serve traditional fare. A good place to take your mum.
  • The Ox and Finch served up a fantastic dessert – my pistachio ice cream was eagerly devoured, and the setting was just right for hours of conversation…
  • Head to the Ubiquitous Chip in the West End for fresh Scottish produce (like flowers from their rooftop gardens) and innovative takes on traditional dishes.

veggie-breakfast-scotlandUbiquitous chip

For more Glasgow tips, make sure to visit Dianne’s blog – it’s her spirit city and she is far more clued up than me on what’s good. People Make Glasgow is the official city brand and also worth a gander.

India – Jaipur

jaipur-wind-palaceJaipur is known as the pink city – because in 1876 the city was painted pink to honour the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), in 1876. Why? Simply because pink is a welcoming colour; and many of the buildings remain this way today.jaipur-baby-monkey Jaipur-fabric Jaipur-rubies-in-the-roughjaipur-limes Jaipur-flowers

In Jaipur we visited the most gorgeous lotus inspired cinema to watch a Bollywood film, indulged in more than our daily quota of lassis; and visited a gem shop. I am no longer one for indulging in shopping, even at the best of times, so I sat outside with our auto drivers, where they all teased me  for having an old fashioned Lonely Planet.

jaipur-lassijaipur-scarvesjaipur-basket-store

It was one of my favourite places we visited – really modern, colourful and friendly… As evidenced by the fact on the way back from dinner somewhere, I was allowed to drive an auto rickshaw! What trust, and a life goal accomplished. Meanwhile Shell was freaking out in the backseat.


From Jaipur we also took a trip to the Amber Fort (pronounced with a silent b) which was quite thrilling to me for obvious reasons. jaipur-amber-VIEWjaipur-amber-fortjaipur-amber-palace

Elephants lumbering up the steps, sweltering heat, gorgeous gardens laid out like a elaborate rug design, and famed for a hall of mirrors… It was fabulous. Here’s a video of a song called Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya – a scene from the classic film, Mughal-E-Azam – filmed at the Amber Fort in the sixties: