Thursday, 31 March 2016

CARRYING LIFE ON MY SHOULDERS


I love a backpack and have always favoured backpacks over baby bags since having children nearly 13 years ago. Before children I would only use a backpack when off on an adventure but now they are my 'mum uniform' of choice and I would consider myself quite an expert. When you have children you carry everything; extra layers that come on and off, some sweets for motivational and tricky negotiation situations and carrying cameras to record every single moment (as if you don't capture the moment it just might not have happened, right?) I also like to keep my hands free too for holding hands with the three year old or even carrying him on my shoulders!

So when cool and ethically minded company Millican asked me to try out one of their backpacks last weekend and take part in their Easter competition, I jumped at the chance. We packed our ruckpack, the 'Smith' 18L roll pack for a hearty walk, remembering the camera, blanket, dog poo bags as we were looking after a friend's dog, jumpers as it was one of those deceptively sunny spring days that can change so quickly, water bottle, phones, sweets and a camera. The rucksack easily stored everything and had some really good internal pockets to organise everything, better still the bag is made from organic canvas and 57% of the material is recycled!

It is by far the most comfortable bag I've ever carried and we put it to the test by climbing the highest hill we could find on an Easter foraging walk. I love the plain design, lack of seams and roll top with aluminium buckles and it looks really good too.

I might not be the self-sufficient Lake District legend that Millican Dalton was (who the company is named after) who made his own organic clothes, rucksacks and tents but as a busy mum with a passion for getting outdoors I hope that my everyday adventures in raising my three boys results in them being deep-thinking and conscientious just like Millican Dalton was and they have plenty of adventures of their own.

For more 'mum uniform' inspiration take a look at my Stylish Mum Pinterest board.

disclosure: Millican sent us a Smith 18L roll pack to test. 

BRADSHAW & SONS GOES OUT FOR BREAKFAST


Breakfast is my absolute favourite meal of the day and in my opinion a completely underrated and overlooked meal. When we were new parents many moons ago, our anti-natal baby group would meet up and go out for breakfast as we were all sleep deprived and still hanging on the the concept that a. babies hadn't changed our lives at all and b. we still had a social life. Fast forward 13 years and now with three children, going out for breakfast is a more affordable option when dining out as a family of five, the children are better behaved in the morning than last thing at night when they start to tire and it sets us up for the day.

131 The Prom is one place that hasn't overlooked the importance of breakfast and has just launched their new 'healthy and hearty' breakfast menu and invited Lou of Little Green Shed to test it out and, lucky for us, to bring with her, her best bloggy buddies (Cathy, Laura and me) too!



I have visited 131 before but only for lunch and drinks, and was lucky enough to have a nosy around the night before they opened a few years ago, when we had a sneak peak of the bedrooms that are to die for. I would love to be whisked away for the night to wallow in the gorgeous freestanding baths in the beautifully furnished rooms and dance the night away at their Ultimate Jazz House Party, the hottest ticket of the Cheltenham Jazz festival.

Anyway I digress!

On arriving at 131 that occupies a commanding position on Cheltenham's beautiful tree-lined Promenade we were shown to a table by really lovely staff in the main, light filled, dining room and given a menu. Hot coffee was served in charming Dutch coffee cups, whilst we poured over the menu trying to decide what to order, there is a lot to choose from; a table full of cereals, fruit, yoghurt, breads, croissant, cheeses and ham. Hearty breakfasts including the full English and waffles served with bacon and maple syrup and eggs served every way imaginable. The menu included the provenance of the ingredients and it's always so comforting to see local producers recognised and supported.


I enjoyed a bowl of natural yoghurt with blackberries and a great chunk of honeycomb to start, in the most beautiful Greyshott Pottery hand thrown bowl (I'll be looking to source some of those myself!) then I enjoyed a bowl of waffles served with smoked bacon and a jug of maple syrup to pour over, washed down with a glass of green juice (mint, fennel and apple) to balance the hearty with a little healthy! To finish we chattered over croissants washed down with pots of tea, served in large silver tea pots. All too soon breakfast was over and as we left as the tables were being set up for lunch.

131 The Prom is owned by The Lucky Onion group who since they opened The Tavern in Cheltenham have been making waves in the Cotswold's through their great food and beautifully designed and very Instagrammable pubs and restaurants. They have built up a great reputation and their cool image (one of their business partners is Superdry owner Julian Dunkerton) is only enhanced by guests that include Idris Elba!

I will certainly be back with my tribe for breakfast as there were so many other delicious things from the menu that I want to try!

Here's Bradshaw & Sons top UK breakfast spots...

131 The Prom, Cheltenham 

The new healthy and hearty menu has everything you could possibly want for breakfast in the most comprehensive menu I have ever seen. From a buffet table packed full of cereals, yohurts, fresh fruit, cheeses, ham, breads and croissants, to cooked hearty full English breakfasts to more modern options such as waffles with bacon and maple syrup and eggs in every way you can think of. This menu is the ultimate in breakfast menu's and will satisfy any palette.

Boston Tea Party, Alfred Street, Bath

Boston Tea Party has had somewhat of a boom in the west country over the past few years with new cafe's opening everywhere. One of the latest and most beautiful is in Alfred Street, Bath, with huge glass windows, rattan lampshades and amazing hanging ferns giving it a colonial air. It's busy and bustling, when we visited we sat next to Bath rugby players who were eating bacon and eggs pre-match. The menu seems to follow the same formula throughout the family-based chain and breakfasts are served all day. I love the scotch pancakes with maple syrup and bacon and the sourdough eggy-bread with bacon and avocado but always wish I'd ordered 'the boss' a full English breakfast served on a huge falcon enamel tray. The cafe's are very child friendly with crayons and colouring sheets, a really great children's menu and free babyccino's.


Porthmeor Cafe, Porthmeor Beach, St.Ives, Cornwall

Ask to sit outside in one of their heated booths and enjoy sea views in the warm with a blanket on your lap! I adore the very Cornish saffron toast and scrambled egg on toast with Cornish crab and creme fraiche. If we holiday in Cornwall we'll drive miles to breakfast here and enjoy St.Ives before the hordes of tourists wake-up.


Caravan, King's Cross, London

I first discovered Caravan after a freezing cold swim in the nearby King's Cross Swimming Pond last year. It's busy so be prepared to queue, but service is brisk and tables are turned relatively quickly, we sat at the bar drinking pots of hot tea to stave off hypothermia after our hour long dip. This is London, so traditional breakfasts are served alongside more cosmopolitan quinoa and buckwheat breakfast bowls. The restaurant is in an old warehouse and tables are large and communal. 

Polpeor Cafe, Lizard Point, Cornwall

Polpeor Cafe is situated at the most southerly point in the UK and serves delicious traditional breakfasts from 9.30am. It looks no more than a hut, but once inside this old fashioned caff sit by the windows and watch seals bob in the sea below.

Coppa Club, Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire

Coppa Club sits on the banks of the River Thames and has a really relaxed vibe. Breakfast is served in the dining room that boasts huge glass windows that fully open to the terrace in warmer weather.
The breakfast menu is extensive and includes kedgeree, pancake stacks and warming bowls of porridge as well as delicious fresh fruit juices and smoothies.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

WILD GARLIC PESTO RECIPE



I made some wild garlic pesto today, I love its bright green colour and fresh spring taste and add it to pasta as well as using it as a dip for crusty bread.

My wild garlic pesto recipe has been honed over the last few years...

1 handful of wild garlic leaves (about 40g) - take only what you need and remember the foragers' code.
10g organic pine nuts
65ml rape seed oil or olive oil
10g grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

It's very easy to make, you put everything in one bowl and use an electric hand mixer to blend it all together. This recipe makes one small jar (see the picture above to see how much it makes).

Some people add garlic cloves and lemon zest, but I prefer mine pure and simple. Wild garlic is one of the highlights of the foragers' year and to me heralds the start of my foraging season.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

WILD GARLIC & CHEESE SCONES ~ YAY IT'S FORAGING TIME!


Yay, it's my favourite time of year! All through the woods little green shoots are appearing as bluebells and wild garlic leaves push their way out of the soil. We picked a handful of young wild garlic leaves and made some delicious savoury wild garlic and cheese scones.


Ingredients

250g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
80g butter
50g grated mature cheese
a small handful of wild garlic leaves chopped
150ml milk (& a little extra for brushing on the top)

Method

1. Heat the oven to 220oC
2. Lightly grease a baking sheet
3. Rub together the flour, butter and salt
4. Stir in the cheese, chopped wild garlic and slowly add the milk to make a dough 
5. Turn onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Roll out to 2cm thickness and cut out into 5cm rounds.
6. Brush the tops of the scones with milk and pop in the over for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.
7. Cool on a wire rack and eat with butter while still warm.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ WEEK 9

left to right: snowdrop, bluebell and wild garlic

Whilst the snowdrops are over, all over the woodland floor bulbs are springing up and soon there will be carpets of bluebells and wild garlic. What's on your table this week?

Monday, 7 March 2016

GREY IS THE NEW BLACK


For over 20 years black has been my favourite colour for clothes, from day-to-day workwear to slimming casual leggings and jumpers. But over the past two years grey has been creeping into my 'colour' palette both in the home and now in my wardrobe too, so to my delight when the latest Toast catalogue dropped through the letterbox the things that jumped out to me were a gorgeous grey linen pinstripe dress (above) perfect for spring and the stoneware, handmade in Yorkshire. I just love these charcoal grey tumblers and small jug (below). 


Thanks Toast for such a gorgeous spring collection, I'm saving my pennies already!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

STYLING THE SEASONS


I'm not very good at joining in with projects and hashtags, but there are one or two that I really like on Instagram and in blogland and occasionally I actually manage to remember to join in with them.

Styling the Seasons is a collaboration between bloggers Katy Orme of Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte of the blog Lotts & Lots. Each month they encourage you to style a surface in your home and share it on your blog or on Instagram using #stylingtheseasons


This month I plunder the garden, digging up the bulbs and bringing them into the house to grow and flower before putting them back outside again! A bit bonkers I know but I'd much rather have a house full of native flowers such as snowdrops, bluebells and hellebores than buy cut flowers flown in from around the world. The garden is bare but around the house I have filled Kilner jars and golden syrup tins that make me happy!

Friday, 4 March 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ WEEK 8


Walking down a shady hidden lane this week and we were surprised how green it was! Moss covered the damp dry stones walls whilst ferns grew in between the stones creating a little bit of magic with all the lush green texture and colours. We of course got our Observer's Book of Ferns out when we got home so we could identify the different ones we found.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE A LAMB


March, somewhat predictably like the proverb, came in like a lion this morning with rain and cold wind. My mood is equally blustery but I'm extremely grateful for all the lovely comments on my last post, which has made me feel heaps better.

This weekend we spent time with good friends, on Saturday catching up over pots of tea and the children's noise and on Sunday pushing the tables together and trying to find enough chairs as two families of five crammed together to share a big homemade pie. These are my favourite times, simple meals, noisy children and good home-cooked food and despite never wanting to invite people around to see my muddle of a home, when I do it is medicine for the soul and I never want them to go home.


It reminds me that I had wanted a while back to cook a series of seasonal suppers using foraged and seasonal fayre each month and I must plan this so I have more good times to look forward to.
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