Thursday, 8 March 2018

SNOW DAYS


Every few years our little town gets a covering of snow, sometimes it settles, more often than not it melts away. This winter we have had three separate snow weeks - almost unheard of! Three times we've been snowed in, not being able to get to work and school. We love it, the town with a sprinkling of snow looks beautiful and timeless. 


There is nothing better than embracing a snow day and with three boys who need daily exercise and fresh air, it's time to wrap up warm, find waterproof clothes, odd gloves, hats, as many socks as we can layer and still pull wellies on before finding out we've grown out of said wellies!


The last snow fall brought with it a cold spell that I can't remember experiencing before, the wind chill was so cold and I slipped over on the ice picking up a boy from school, bruising my ribs which is one of the most painful things I've ever done! 


We default to winter food, for warmth of course, hot toddies, porridge and big stews to enjoy after a day on the slopes! The slopes. We are blessed to live near the best sledging slopes, where families gather in the snow with sledges rediscovered, all ages playing and laughing together and shrieking as they slide down the hill. It's a pilgrimage that I hope will fill their childhood memories as they get older.


Then after everyone is worn out and can no longer feel their noses/toes/fingers a trip to the local pub to warm up with chips and a game of Uno with friends.


There really is nothing better than a snow day.


Thursday, 1 March 2018

SHEPHERDS HUT FOR SALE


Shepherds Hut for sale - £9,750 or nearest offer

Wooden clad genuine shepherds hut for sale, with double bed on a built-in shelf with storage underneath (where a shepherd would keep his lambs warm) and Silent Night mattress. Painted with Little Green Paint on the inside. Heated with a powerful wood burning stove that warms up the hut quickly. Small drop down table inside. Able to be moved on its chassis and tow bar, built to traditional design, although would need to be moved on the back of a trailer on a road. Doesn't need planning permission due to it being on wheels. In lovely condition would make a lovely garden retreat/spare room/office or potential income generator on a glampsite or through airbnb. Based near Stroud. 





LIFE IS A ROLLERCOASTER


I haven't blogged in an age. Life just seems to get in the way! I do manage to post regularly on Instagram but I've completely neglected this space here. 

In case you're not on Instagram, here's a quick summary of the past few years...

2016 saw us have a mid-life crisis, we left our jobs that we had worked at for 36 years between us and took on running a pub that had been closed for refurbishment for nine months, literally turned our lives upside down to make it work, had a so many problems with the brewery and couldn't make it work with the children (you can say "I told you so" at this point!) 

2017 couldn't remedy situation with the brewery, decided to cut our losses. Have so much love for so many people that propped us up during a really difficult time and supported our pub adventure by visiting - I lost three stone in weight during our time in the pub. I started working for a highly respected local PR company literally a day after handing the pub over and kept my head busy before being asked to runaway with the circus, quite literally. 

Started working in my absolute dream job with a fab team of people. Spending much more time with the boys and appreciating the little things, which was maybe the medicine that I needed? (but that's another blog post!) Still dealing with fall-out from the pub adventure which causes major anxiety but not one day goes past where I don't regret moving out as quickly as we moved in! 

2018 loving my job, we are broke and have to sell the shepherds hut but things are getting there. I read a lot of stuff about entrepreneurs, and taking risks - everyday there's a different 'motivating' slogan on Instagram and Facebook and I know if we had stuck at it we'd be successful and wealthier which is what I was chasing. I wanted to be something I'm not at the expense of all that I've got. 

so - I think that brings you back up to date with my news - so what news have I missed of yours? 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

WILD BAKING WITH THE HERBERT'S


“Wild baking is more than being outdoors and it’s more than baking. It’s a way of cooking that is somehow more timeless, convivial, nutritious and hugely satisfying.
Tom Herbert 

Starting the campfire

At the heart of Tom and Anna Herbert’s home the kitchen is full of life, and children, and dogs. Anna has just baked a flapjack and is cutting it into chunks, offering it to us with coffee as we arrive bringing our own family-of-five chaos with us as the husband has just spent three hours at hospital with a child and a suspected broken thumb which turned out not to be. Anna is discussing with Tom the best way to froth milk, he has of course just discovered a new way using a cafetiere to froth, that pretty much sums up Tom, interested and enthusiastic about everything and always with a gadget or new way to do things!


smoke signals across the valley

We are at the Herbert’s to celebrate Tom’s new book Do Wild Baking / Food, fire and good times, published by The Do Book Company and are planning an afternoon of cooking on the fire. Tom has a box of autumn veg ready and the jewel like coloured veg is displayed alongside sweet chestnuts and medlars picked by Anna from the garden. We finish our coffee and venture down to the bottom of the garden. 



The boys set about chopping kindling and gathering sticks and logs for the fire, Tom teaching us a Canadian way of blowing the fire to get it going by making a tiny diamond shape between our thumbs and forefingers that directs the breath more precisely. My boys are then occupied for hours with saws and axes, chopping and stacking and stoking the fire, well that and scrumping the apples from Anna’s trees! 


Us trying to avoid the smoke, fuelled by tea and homemade flapjack

As the campfire burned fiercely and we chatted about nothing and everything, broken and unfinished sentences as a different child interjected or was dispatched to the kitchen to retrieve something. We all did a strange sychronised dance around the fire to stop the smoke in getting in our eyes but inevitably smoking ourselves as much as smoked kippers!  


making a seasonal veg parcel to cook buried in the fire 

We left the fire supervised whilst Tom showed us how to mill our own flour. I had visions of big stones and hours of grinding reminiscent of school trips but Tom true to form had a new mill, powered by electric but with stones inside into which he poured organic spelt and rye, and we watched hypnotised by the patterns the grain made as it filtered down. He mixed the flour with sourdough starter and fermented rosewater into a dough, popping it into a bowl topped with a shower cap to prove before making into flatbreads. 



Tom and Anna chopped seasonal veg of onion, squash and beetroot into a foil parcel with fennel seeds we then buried it in the embers as the flames died down. Then onions, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, garlic and lemon were cut in half and placed onto the ash of the fire, this was for the campfire salsa. 


cooking the veg in the embers to make campfire salsa

Once the skins had become charred and the veg cooked they were carefully lifted from the fire, squeezed from their skins and I was put to work chopping them into small chunks with the juice of the lemon squeezed over the top and fresh parsley chopped. 



Finally, the ingredients that needed the least amount of cooking were added to the fire as it was losing its intensity, the steaks and the dough, swiftly shaped into flatbreads and baked. The feast was shared between us as we huddled around the fire sat on the mossy ground, rocks and stumps, the low autumn sun creating the most magical golden light. We tucked into our feast washed down with a hoppy-cider, almost forgetting to dig up the parcel of autumn veg from under the embers! 



A feast created, shared and enjoyed. We left nourished and inspired to have more wild baking adventures. 



Do Wild Baking is out now and contains 50 recipes and all the information you need to have your own wild baking adventure, £8.99 published by The Do Book Company.


TOM'S WILD BAKING BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I have a signed and slightly smoked copy of Wild Baking that I'm giving away over on Instagram right now and I’ll randomly draw a winner after 8pm Friday 24th November.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

THE CULPEPER IN EAST LONDON


From the moment I saw glimpses of The Culpeper, situated in Spitalfields in East London on Instagram I wanted to stay there. The pictures of the cool almost 'unstyled' and 'unfinished' bedrooms, a roof terrace with greenhouse bar and a pub full of plants and pretty people ~ what's not to love?

When we arrived in the big city it was a Friday night, and the cool city kids were spilling out of the pub onto the pavement outside, all cool with blunt trendy hairdo's and beards. It was obviously the place to be.

The staff were really lovely showing us to our room, one of only five on the second floor, where the noisy pub could hardly be heard. The room had naked plastered walls, a huge comfortable bed with wooden headboard and cool decor with a very gorgeous lampshade that I'm still lusting after!


As it was a gorgeous evening the roof terrace was open and being guests at The Culpeper, we were put to the top of the waiting list for a terrace table. The views of the London skyline were amazing, the gherkin and so many cranes were a fabulous backdrop to the 'allotment style' rooftop terrace where tables were interspersed with planters full of vegetables and edible flowers.


The menu is packed with home-grown produce and is simple, seasonal and tasty, in fact everything that we wanted to do in our pub! We chose lamb and steak that was cooked on the griddle in the greenhouse bar and a couple of side dishes; mixed leaves from the rooftop, homegrown carrots that were served with their ferny carrot tops and anchovy butter and chips, which we didn't need at all but ordered out of habit! It was delicious and was washed down with a couple of cocktails and a few ciders whilst we watched the sun go down. 

When we retired to bed we could hear a murmur from the restaurant diners below on the first floor and the scraping of chairs on the terrace above but nothing so loud that it kept us awake in such a comfortable bed. In the morning we didn't wake early and lazily appeared at breakfast in the restaurant at the same time as everyone else, who had similar leisurely ideas. The breakfast included in the price of an overnight stay was again simple with fruit, pastries and granola alongside a modest amount of cooked options, the husband chose smashed avocado and eggs on sourdough whilst I greedily enjoyed a full English. 

I don't mean to gush so, but rarely is something as good in real life as it looks with Instagram filters but The Culpeper does. Dare I say it's possibly the most Instagram friendly pub in the East End and with such friendly staff too. We loved it, the decor was very 'us' with its rustic simplicity, although not sure I could pursuede the husband to have the same plastered walls! 

Rooms cost £120/night and more information, menus and pictures can be found here www.theculpeper.com

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A CAMP INSPIRED BIRTHDAY PARTY


Short on time this year I feared I had run out of inspiration for the little man's birthday, but some last minute searching online rewarded me with some simple short cuts that saved the day!

I made a chocolate cake using a recipe from Monty Don's Home cookbook, which always makes a rich, luxurious chocolate cake that rises really well. Then I covered it with a rich chocolate buttercream icing. With the 'camp' theme I made a very simple tent from card and broke off a few twigs from my twisted hazel bush in the garden and pushed them in to look like trees. Then I melted some pear drops in the oven, using baking parchment. Once the red and yellow pear drops had melted I swirled them together to create a fiery orange colour and left to cool. I snapped the cooled and now very hard sweet mixture into small shards and made a campfire by adding them to some matchmakers.


The retro Americana party bags were made with these happy camper pennants, I bought the artwork from Etsy for £4.80 and then printed them out and pegged them on some plain brown sandwich bags, £6.99 for 20 on Amazon, ready to fill with cake and small gifts, so they worked out at 59p/bag.

I found these gorgeous bear invitations on Etsy and for £9.61 (conversion rate from dollars) the artist personalised them for me within hours and sent a jpeg to print, which I thought was good value as I had plenty of kraft paper to print them out on.



I also found these cool scavenger hunt cards for a cool party game, again buying just the jpeg for £4.80 to print out at home, I'd have loved to have had the time to make my own but these were brilliant for five year olds. We also had a tiger, as an older brother wanted to dress up and surprise everyone at the party... grrrrrrreat fun!



Wednesday, 23 August 2017

REVIEW: GIFFORDS CIRCUS 2017


It's difficult to describe Giffords Circus to those that haven't had the joy of visiting. It is like stepping into another world, one created by Nell Gifford in 2000, stitched together from her childhood dreams, with dancing ponies and costumes handmade from her mothers old velvet curtains. It has grown since the early years with a bigger big top, but retains that earnest 'handmade and simple' quality of its humble beginnings.



You are drawn to its beauty, the vintage showman's wagons with their burgundy livery, adorned with festoon lights and the storytelling and slapstick humour of Tweedy, the 'vaudeville style' clown, who this year is funnier than ever with trusty sidekick Keef - an iron!



This year Giffords newcomers include Nelson and Bruno, the moustache brothers, whose acrobatic capers and slapstick style compliment Tweedy and between them have the audience roaring with laughter from the moment they enter the ring.



There is a high-energy Cuban troupe with a swing act, almost touching the canvas roof of the tent with their jaw-dropping somersaults and an eerie hushed silence as the Russian gymnast Sergei performs the most amazing balancing act and all I can do is wonder whether he was an Olympic gymnast in a former life, he is so amazing.

I look around the big top and the rest of the audience like me are mesmerised, clapping and cheering until our ribs ache!



But wait, there's more to Gifford's, the food at the circus has got even better and this year there's a new wagon serving Field Food, a bit like 'street food' but from the fields and in places foraged along the way. The boys love the pizza's from the pizza wagon that uses Chadwick Ovens, but the new field food was absolutely delicious, with pulled pork and rhubarb brioche buns that I'm still salivating over weeks later.



You can find out more by visiting www.giffordscircus.com but be quick if you want to see it this year as it ends on September 24th with a big charity performance.


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