Foodie Friday: The Groundworks

Hitchin is a small enough town that the opening of a new eatery gets plenty of attention (yes, I really used the word ‘eatery’, and yes I’m turning into Daisy Steiner). More often than not though, it’s not so positive attention…..Adam and I are always moaning as more and more chains open up and there’s uproar about the licensing application for the planned Wetherspoons. We’ve been getting more and more frustrated with the lack of places serving decent veggie options, and us-friendly meat doesn’t seem to interest any of the restaurateurs around here. Not so in the case of Hitchin’s newest establishment, The Groundworks though.

http://www.theadvertisergroup.co.uk/News/Lifelong-friends-to-realise-dream-with-launch-of-Hitchin-business-20140327164348.htm

Image from The Advertiser Group

The childhood dream of two local boys, Tom and Ben, this place is about as independent as you can get and is breathing fresh air into what we had thought was a rather disappointing local offering. Curious about the brown-papered windows concealing the old cafe on the corner of the church yard, I snooped around to find you what was planned and soon came across the new website and Twitter feed. The teaser menu was most interesting and exciting, and when I got in touch to ask about the meat they planned to use I was yet more excited…..finally a local place we can get a good meal out!

Keen to find out when we could taste the artisan coffee and home cooked tasties the website boasted of, we had another snoop as we passed the cafe last weekend and found ourselves being invited in. The boys have totally refitted the place, and the reclaimed wood they’ve lined the walls in and made their tables from make you feel rather like you’re walking into a sauna, just without the awkward avoidance of eye contact and strategically placed towel. It’s beautifully fresh and tidy, yet still cosy and bustling. There’s a lovely big sharing table in the window, a reclaimed slate bar that came from a snooker table, and each table is centred with a pretty kilner jar filled with fresh garden flowers.

http://www.thegroundworks.co.uk/coffee/

Image from The Groundworks

Not having planned the visit we ordered just a couple of flat white coffees, which were delivered to our table by a friendly Groundworker in no time. Tom explained how he was still playing with the coffee grinder, so to let him know if they weren’t right, but our coffees were just perfect. Soon finding another at our table to try, I commented on how pretty the micro foam pattern on the top was, and next thing I know Tom is giving me a lesson at the coffee machine!

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Image from The Groundworks

Told that the full opening was happening on Monday, we planned a lunch there on Thursday to try everything out. I was due to meet up with the very talented Hilary (a friend of Adam’s Mum who also came along) who will be doing my wedding hair and makeup, and so we sat with a very yummy coffee whilst rooting through my Pinterest boards and dress silk samples at the big front table. Adam met us after most of the girl chat was out of the way, and we ordered the pulled pork (one a piece for Adam, his Mum and I) and the Caesar sandwich (for Hils).

Our lunches were brought to us on rustic wooden boards with side salads in the gorgeous white and blue enamel Falconware I love. The salad was fresh, simple and crisps, with no dreaded rocket and just a little light dressing which meant that I actually ate it all (unheard of!). The pulled pork came with a great crunchy slaw in a crisp brioche bun, and was bally delicious. I’ve never been able to eat a pulled pork sandwich out before because it’s so dreadfully tricky to find somewhere that makes them using me-friendly meat, so I enjoyed it even more I think. Hilary’s Caesar sandwich was just as impressive and we all left nicely stuffed.

When we returned to The Groundworks later (Adam’s Mum left the bottle of sloe gin we made for her in the window!!) it was still buzzing, and the warm tungsten lights that fill the place made it positively glow as we walked towards it. I know we’ll be back again and again for the rich, chocolatey coffee, and will more than likely try out their brunch offerings very soon.

I can’t believe we’ve had to wait this long for such a place in our new home town, but I have to say that the arrival of The Groundworks was well worth the wait.

The Groundworks officially opens tomorrow….wishing you all the best guys!

Ems x

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Spring in the air

Well ok, it’s raining right now as I type, but wasn’t yesterday just blissfully sunny?! I just adore this time of year….the post Christmas blues and cold weather seem to ebb away as soon as the snow drops appear and little splashes of colour brighten up the garden. I love the thought that warmer and sunnier times are not far away, long dog walks beckon, and for this year of course spring time means our wedding too!

I had a little wander down the garden yesterday, and was delighted to find the lawn is filled with pretty pastel prims, glowing purple crocuses and dainty little snow drops already. The flower beds and pots are also coming to life with darling little tete-tete daffodils starting to bloom and even the tulips are starting to out on a show.

And so to brighten up a rainy grey day, I thought I’d share a few snaps from my wanderings……hope they bring you some Spring time love……

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Ems x

Volunteering with my Local Time Bank

You may remember I’ve mentioned Time Banking in a couple of my posts recently…..about how I joined my local Time Bank when I moved out of London and how I’ve been enjoying volunteering through it, and getting to meet some new people.

Anyway, I’ve just written a blog post all about it over on the NHCVS Blog (my Time Bank is a North Herts Centre for Voluntary Service project) and I thought I’d share it here so you can find out more. It really is a super way to volunteer, and to become part of your local community. I certainly can’t recommend it enough, but here’s some more about it…..

Ems x

Twelfth Night

That’s it. All over again for another year.

I hate this bit. The Christmas come-down. Yesterday was spent packing away the decorations, finishing off the festive treats and generally de-Christmassing the place. So sad.

I thought though to help perk me up a bit, I’d look back over the Christmas snaps I took. Here’s how I spent the last couple of weeks…..

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Our tree in all its glory!

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I was also allowed a second tree this year….for all my tacky decorations!

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I wrapped gifts in pretty bright colours this year, labelled with my new label maker and finished off with all-important glitter tape!

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Gifts for our friends ready ahead of our annual Christmas party.

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We made extremely yummy Sloe chocolate for friends, made from the sloes we used in last year’s gin and this year’s port! Boozy!

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We added home made Cinnamon and Frankinsence vodkas to the chocolate, and topped off with a home stitched tree decoration, they became our little Christmas mini-hampers this year.

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Hitchin got a German style Christmas market this year, but I was disappointed they didn’t have Lebkuchen or Kartoffelpuffer!

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We made up for that slightly by drinking lots of lush Gluhwein in the mugs we got at the Christkindlmarkts in Vienna last year!

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And of course, MUCH chocolate was consumed. Including this smug looking Milky Bar Kid.

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My Mummy came to visit over Christmas, as did Adam’s parents, eldest brother and sister in law. The dogs enjoyed the extra attention no end!

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Father Christmas made a HUGE delivery to our house!

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My haul! And it was the first Christmas I didn’t have to wish for a puppy!

Hope you had a fabulously festive time too!

Ems x

Why celebrating the New Year at home WINS

I genuinely can’t remember when I last celebrated New Year’s Eve outside my home.

I suspect it was that awful time I ventured into central London to see the fireworks at the London Eye….first we were rammed into a hot sticky bar where we couldn’t sit down or go to the loo, and getting a luke warm drink was just not worth the effort….then we fought our way into a tiny vacant spot within view of the fireworks, only to have cheap cider spilled on our hair and get elbowed in the ribs….and then of course it was the five hour journey home (which would usually take twenty minutes) because all the buses were crammed with revellers and parents with giant buggies, and the wretched bendy bus doors would fail every other minute due to some ignorant fool blocking them. Oh joy.

I can’t even remember the fireworks from that night, which tells me that either the rest of the experience far out-weighed them, or they were just not all that good anyway.

I do like to celebrate things. And I love a good fireworks show (I do mean good though).  But there just comes a point when the negatives out-weigh the positives, and I think that going out on New Year’s Eve is one of those occasions. And as such, for the last many years I’ve done New Years at home. Here is why:

  1. The free bar. Even if you only buy in a couple of bottles of plonk, you’re probably going to have something nicer to drink that if you go out. There’s no queue for the bar, no escalated prices and you can have what you like, when you want it. We opened a bottle of fizz last night and had a little gin too….all great quality booze, chilled just right, without the hefty price tag and having to get all Hulk just to be served. If we’d not opened the fizz I expect Adam would have made us yummy cocktails instead, and much better than the ones you can buy in most bars.
  2. The comfort. There’s an expectation that you dress up and make an effort if you go out for New Year’s Eve. Glittery dresses and high heels have their place (and I love them as much as the next girl), but when you’re going to be on your feet for hours, and potentially out in the cold and wet too (crazy weather last night for sure!), well it’s just no fun any more. At home you can wear your jarmies and slippers, snuggle under a blanky on the sofa, and all within easy reach of whatever you want…including a clean loo with no queue!
  3. The travel. I hate public transport at the best of times. Whilst I used London Transport for a good twelve years and had a certain fondness for sitting on the top deck of a route master, at New Years it’s over-crowded, smelly and often a bit scary. I hate the waiting around and the silly, ignorant people walking about in their own little bubbles. And don’t get me started on taxis. No, the walk from the sofa to bed is enough for me on New Year’s Eve.
  4. The high expectations. I’ve always found there to be an immense pressure to have The-Most-Amazing-Time-Ever when going out on New Year’s Eve. For me that’s a kiss of death, as it gets my hopes up (easily done) only to dash them because the odds are stacked against it. It all just seems a bit forced, and that’s not how great nights out happen. Instead I’ve always been left feeling rather deflated, which let’s face it, is no way to start the new year!
  5. The fact that you can have a great time another night. Whilst for years I thought Adam and I were just stick in the muds about New Year’s Eve, I’ve come to realise that lots of people feel the same way. We’re all in the same boat, and even if I planned a great party at home (thus getting to celebrate in comfort but with the bonus of more people to celebrate with) that would still leave a load of people having to find their way back to their homes late into the cold, wet night. For a few years I actually celebrated the New Year a week or two later, with a bunch of people going out for a lovely meal together for “New New Years”. It was a great idea because everywhere was less crowded, there wasn’t the pressure to have the best night out of the year, and getting home again was just like a normal night. And nobody felt like they’d missed out by not doing it on New Year’s Eve.

So there you have it. My party-pooper’s guide to New Years. I have no regrets…I’m back on the sofa under a snuggly blanket again, after having had a great night’s sleep and an amazing brunch. And just to prove I’m not a complete fuddy duddy, and I do like fireworks, here’s how Sydney brought in the new year with some very Ems-approved fireworks…..

Ems x

 

Wrapping up 2013

*Shuffles in, embarrassed*

So er, hello little Blog. I didn’t forget you, honest. It’s just been, you know, a busy three months!

As far as neglecting my blog goes, I reckon this has been the longest stint ever! True, it’s been a crazy old end to the year. And in honesty, every time I’ve squeezed in a moment to post, I’ve just not, well, ‘felt’ it. I must have written at least a dozen posts in my head since my last offering back in September, and as ever there are loads of things I want to fill you in about. I’ll have to write up a list of posts I really must post, but I thought that by way of dipping my toe back in the water, I’d do a little round up of the year, as is the done thing…..

2013 started pretty darn well, truth be told. My darling Adam proposed to me in mid January (a great time really, as I always get the post-Christmas blues and this perked me up no end!). Shortly afterwards we went ring shopping (SO much fun!) and chose my amazing vintage diamond engagement ring…..then it was a case of letting everyone know and getting started on the planning!

We weren’t the only ones to get engaged this year, and in fact it’s been a whirlwind of proposals in our friendship groups! Huge congratulations to (in no particular order!) Dave and Charlotte, Ben and Cheryl, Si and Carol, Andy and Sharon,  Michelle of MYCreative, Nova and David, and Claire and Matthew….who I’m exceedingly excited to be Bridesmaid for next August!

Not long after all that, we ventured into the world of dog fostering, welcoming a certain little fawn lurcher to our home. After only three days, we’d found a home for the Incredibly Good Looking Cooper, and I bawled for a week after he went and took my heart with him! It turned out to be true love though after all, as he came back to us just five weeks later and chose us as his forever family!

(Thanks to my lovely future Sister in Law for the photo, and the one below of Digby too!)

Soon we realised that rescuing dogs is in fact rather addictive, and we began to look for a friend for Coops. It took us a while, but after a few false starts, we found our wonderful little Digby! We had to wait a while to welcome him to the family, as he had kennel cough (like Cooper, he’s from Ireland and caught it whilst in the pound over there) and we had to get Coops vaccinated so he wouldn’t get poorly too. Eventually though, Digby too came to his forever home and there we were….a proper little family!

I am just LOVING being a dog owner / Mummy to our two boys! It certainly is hard work, and a real commitment, but they make it so worth my while with all their entertaining and love. They both have very unique personalities (not to mention unique appearances!) and make us laugh out loud daily with their antics. Training is an ongoing process (I don’t know how anyone can be a dog owner and work full time!), but they are getting so settled now which is very rewarding. And I am certainly benefitting from all the extra exercise which is a bonus too!

I love my boys sooooooo much!!!! Big thank yous to GRWE (Cooper) and Heathlands (Digby) for saving our boys and all your hard work!

2013 was pretty good work wise too. I got to work regularly at a brilliant local charity, producing events for them, starting a blog, designing a new website and actually spending a LOT of time designing posters! I’ve continued selling my jewels at the awesome Jolly Brown, my nearest and dearest vintage shop, and hosted a stall at the Hitchin Christmas Lights Switch On which was super fun.

Perhaps most notably I set up my Not on the High Street shop in September, which was the main culprit for my lack of blogging! It was nicely busy from the off actually, and took off much better than my Etsy shop (although I’m still enjoying selling vintage treasures and my artwork on there too), but come Christmas shopping time it just got to be bonkers! Whilst I have a few stock items in there (although these are one offs too) most of my orders were for my custom made map jewellery which I have to make from scratch! Needless to say, with an order an hour coming in at some points, I was quickly swamped with work and had to close the shop for whole weeks at a time to catch up with the demand. Still, it was a privilege to make so many special treasures for people and a big thank you to all of you who ordered from me this year!

We had a lovely little getaway to St Ives in June, our first as a family with Cooper and Digby! It was great to get away for a week, especially as Adam didn’t take off an awful lot of holiday this year. I loved watching the dogs enjoy the beach, and had amazing adventures at The Lost Gardens of Heligan and The Eden Project. We got to meet up with dear friends Charlotte and Dave to boot, who helped up discover a fabulous Free Range farm with farm shop and restaurant, and I think I had chips on every day but one!

Our other little trip was back to Vienna, this time for a wedding! Katie and Peter actually got married halfway between Vienna and Graz, in a truly stunning Schloss (Austrian for CASTLE!!!) and I was honoured to have been invited to what was one of the most sophisticated occasions I’ve been to!

I was also lucky enough to be at Dan and Brigitte’s wedding….which they thoughtfully held on my birthday! This was brilliant because I got to open all my gifts a day early and it was like having a big party thrown for me with loads of my favourite people there but not having to do anything myself! That said, I was very pleased to help Dan and Brigitte out with their day….I ‘helped’ out by going along to their wedding tasting (such a chore) and setting up the reception venue for them with all kinds of pretty things. Their ceremony at Trinity House was just lovely, especially with the Tower of London (!!!) as a backdrop! Dan made me weep during his speech….I’ve known him near enough ten years now and I’m so delighted he’s found such a perfect match. Love you guys!

The wedding fun didn’t end there though, as we took a trip up to Scarborough to see Clare and Matt get married too. This was pretty much an extra holiday for us, as they’d actually planned an entire ‘Wild West Wedding Weekend’ at an amazing themed holiday park! I got to sleep in a tipi. A TIPI!!!! Needless to say I found this all incredibly exciting, and it was probably the most unique wedding I’ve ever experienced (which is saying something knowing I must have been to near on two hundred!). Everything was so wonderfully personal, including their touching Humanist ceremony, and we all had great fun on the bouncy castle and sitting around in the sun.

Our own wedding planning has gone fairly well I think. Obviously I’m at an advantage because I’ve planned weddings professionally for several years, but it’ll be all go from the new year on! We sent out our home made Save The Dates at the end of May….we based them on the phrase ‘Pencil Us In’ and I hand drew the design, and we attached pencils to each one that we’d had engraved with our names and the date of the wedding. We’ve booked our ceremony at the gorgeous Greenwich Town Hall, and a wonderful wedding photographer to snap some happy memories. We have our reception booked in two weeks after at our neighbouring British Schools Museum…we have some fun plans for that and have very much enjoyed tastings with our caterer and wine supplier already!

We also had an engagement photo shoot with Sharon, and a wonderful engagement party at our place. It was so great to have the excuse to get so many friends together and raise a glass to celebrate!

2013 has also seen an awful lot of hobbying. I’ve learned new skills and cultivated old ones, and despite enjoying the rather slower pace of things since we moved away from London, it’s been nice to stay relatively busy. I gave Adam a beginners archery course for his birthday, and went along with him in September to learn how to shoot with the brilliant Green Dragon Bowmen at the stunning Knebworth House. I’ve tried archery a couple of times before but I just loved learning about it in more depth over four weekend sessions.

I joined the local Time Bank, which has given me a great opportunity to become part of our new community and meet new people. I’ve done a really wide range of skills exchanges….running errands….sewing alterations….re-upholstering a foot stool….giving a make up lesson…painting a mural….all sorts! I’ve used some of my banked hours on some dog sitting, but mostly I’m saving them to use nearer the wedding! I also helped out at two Time Bank craft events, making lots of fun stuff with dozens of local children. Oh, and there was the small matter of Yarn Bombing a local outdoor scultpure!

I’ve taken up cross stitch again, which I’ve not really done since I was little, and have made several pretty samplers for my studio, as well as one for friends Jo and Elliot (after the birth of their lovely baby boy Teddy!). I got a needle felting kit for my birthday which I’ve not really explored yet, so I’ll be playing around more with that in the new year. Oh and I also got a Bamboo for my birthday, and now I have Photoshop (thank you, Amazon sale!) I will be making good use of that! We did lots of antiquing and market shopping this year too…finding new treasures to fill up our home and getting things stashed away for the wedding to make it all pretty.

It was a truly amazing year for foraging, with a bumper soft fruit crop following the wet spring and hot summer. We both loved taking long walks with the hounds and picking kilo upon kilo of yummy stuff, as well as finding lots in our own garden! We’ve made loads of scrummy things with what we picked, including (but probably not limited to, as I’ve most likely forgotten something!)….sloe gin, sloe port, sloe brandy, sloe vodka and sloe chocolate….damson jam and greengage jam….apple pies and crumbles….blackberry and apple muffins….sandwich pickle….elderberry liqueur….and crab apple jelly. We also made cinnamon and frankincense vodkas as little Christmas gifts for friends.

I’ve also turned my hand to quite a bit of gardening, and with the help of Adam and his Mum we’ve really made a difference to our garden already. We have grand plans for next year with fruits and veggies to grow, but right now I’m just so pleased with the transformation of all the flower beds!

I got to see some great shows this year….again including but not limited to: Derren Brown (Infamous) in the West End, Mark Knopfler at the Royal Albert Hall, Final Symphony at the Barbican (music from Final Fantasy), Singing in the Rain at the Royal Albert Hall (the remastered film was shown on a huge screen accompanied by a live orhestra!), Danny Elfman’s music from Tim Burton films at the Royal Albert Hall (with incredible performances from Danny Elfman himself!), The English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Coliseum, The National Theatre’s Frankenstein and The RSC’s Richard II both at our lovely local cinema, a special screening of Hot Fuzz with a pre-film Q&A with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (again at our local cinema which was used in the filming of World’s End…I got to answer a question too!).  Oh, and a bunch of us dressed up to go and see The Great Gatsby at Wilton’s Music Hall too, and we even got dragged up on stage to learn the Charleston!

All in all, it’s been a pretty amazing year. We’ve had our highs and lows, as you do, but I feel very blessed indeed.

I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings us….it promises to be better yet!

Hope you all have a fabulous New Years Eve, whatever you’re up to, and I’ll see you next year!

Ems x

Foody Friday: Breakfast Brample Muffins

 

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I love a breakfast muffin….there’s something rather naughty yet wholesome about yumming up a fruity cake first thing in the morning. It’s also a really nice thing to bake up for a late weekend breakfast, and I made these for us last weekend for just that. We had a number of apples from the garden still to use up, plus a load of brambles we’d foraged whilst walking the dogs, and I wanted to use them together in something other than a crumble or pie. They’re a splendid way to make use of these seasonal ingredients, and you can always freeze a few ready to yum up on another weekend (without the work involved!).

 

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Ingredients (enough to make about 18 to 20 muffins) :

  • 300g apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 150g bramble berries or blackberries
  • 2 tbspn Stevia or caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 200ml milk
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 150g butter
  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tspn baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tspn cinnamon

How to make them:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 c / Gas mark 6
  2. Line a muffin tray with muffin cases and lightly oil inside each one
  3. Pop your diced apple into a large saucepan, pour over the Stevia and cover with water
  4. Bring to the boil then add the blackberries
  5. Stir everything around gently and keep on the heat for a further minute, then remove from the heat and drain
  6. Mix together your eggs, sugar, milk, syrup and butter in a large bowl
  7. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, then mix well
  8. Stir in the drained fruit gently
  9. Carefully spoon the mixture into the cases, not quite filling them to the top (allowing the mixture room to rise)
  10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, and remove once golden on top and a cocktail stick comes out clean
  11. Place on a wire rack to cool a little, then serve warm and gooey!

Enjoy!

Ems x

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Wednesday Wants…. Totes Amazing

I’ve had a thing about bags for as long as I can remember. I recall as a child I’d blow any money I had on a new purse or bag at the first opportunity….and with all my money spent I’d have nothing to put into it! The ‘problem’ once got so bad that I had to limit myself to buying just one bag a month!

I’ve rather curbed the habit since then, favouring buying ‘investment’ bags to last me forever, and I’m currently in the process of streamlining my collection (I have a walk in wardrobe dedicated to accessories and it could do with a tidy up!). I do think though that you REALLY can’t have too many tote bags. They pack down flat, they’re inexpensive, last well, don’t mind being chucked in the washing machine and are infinitely useful to keep around. I have a big one filled with lots of others, and they’re just perfect for using for supermarket shops, throwing parcels and purse in when going to the post office, and for carrying lunches and documents to the office.

I also think tote bags are a rather wonderful way of buying into a new trend you like, your new favourite style, or just to show off your love for dogs or knitting or whatever. The nicest ones in my opinion are the pretty illustrated ones by independent designers, and I do love to carry a piece of artwork around with me!

Koala Screen Print Tote by Depeapa, £14.11 on Etsy, via Craft Gawker

How could you not feel cheered on a shopping trip with this fellow on your arm?! I love a Warly Bear (or Koala Bear if you prefer) and this chap is so charming with his smart yellow jumper!

Rob Ryan Canvas Shopper by Wild and Wolf, £7.50 on sale from £14.95 via Bloomsbury & Co

I actually have this one and I love it! I fell in love with the design when I visited the Ryantown shop on Columbia Road, and the bag itself makes me smile each time I look at it….I think it’s a rather apt saying for me! It’s a good size with a gusset bottom and a little zipped pocket inside, plus it’s a really sturdy, heavy canvas….a total bargain at the sale price!

Dachsund Tote Bag by Jeff Josephine Designs, £10 on Folksy

I adore this little guy! He reminds me a lot of my Digby hound, with his little Queen Anne legs! I am crazy about his striped scarf too!

‘Bad Mother Knitter’ Bag by Kelly Connor Designs, £13.75 via Not on the High Street

Hehehe! I love a pun, and a shiny gold print….. not to mention knitting! This one would be super cute to collect all your yarns and knitting pins together in!

Tipsy Badger Tote by Sophie Parker, £12 on Etsy, via Boys with Banjos

This badger knows how to live! Look at his shorts! I love this guy, and I have a certain badger-mad friend who will go crazy for this I’m sure…. especially as she’s partial to a glass of vino too!

‘Ignition’ Illustrated Rabbit tote by Gallons of Ink, £6 on Etsy

Pretty sure this one is my favourite….there’s something about the juxtaposition of these cutesy little bunnies and the innuendo-filled R&B lyrics of R Kelly’s ‘Ignition.’ So much fun!

How about you? Are you bag mad? Do you have a stash of totes for running errands with and cramming treasures in?

Ems x

Foody Friday: Church Farm Ardeley and the Jolly Waggoner

A few months ago, on a drive into the countryside to visit friends, we passed Church Farm in Ardeley and our attention was grabbed….. a mixed, ecological farm, producing the widest range of meat, fruit and vegetables, Church Farm also serve fresh food from the farm at the Farm Butchery & Store, Farm Cafe and Jolly Waggoner Pub. We made a quick stop on our way back to explore the lovely little farm shop, buying up some amazing fresh eggs and other bits, and made a mental note to find out more about the place once back at home.

And we were so delighted we did! We soon discovered we could get a weekly delivery of vegetables from the farm and quickly placed our order….we now look forward to each delivery of amazingly fresh and carefully grown veg, not to mention cooking it and eating it! The produce tastes like things used to in my opinion….carrots have that wonderfully sweet and earthy fragrance, and cauliflowers have that great peppery taste. We used to have an Able and Cole box whilst we lived in London, but are finding the Church Farm box much more home-grown and honest, and it’s wonderful to know our food has barely travelled!

And it doesn’t end with the veggie stuff…. The free range livestock (and subsequent produce!) ticks all the boxes for us….They keep their animals in small extensive herds & flocks, using older slower growing traditional breeds to produce the best meat from healthy, happy animals. You can visit the animals to see for yourself, and the farm was set up with the advice and help of some of the UK’s foremost farm animal welfare experts.

“All the animals are kept extensively and allowed to mature before slaughter. All animals can and are seen everyday by our farmers, co-farmers, and visitors. Our mortality rates are very low and our animals live on average twice as long as those in more intensive farm systems. We have a fully qualified on-site vet and call upon the RVC/Westpoint vet partnership for support where needed. The only way we differ from the Soil Association husbandry guides for all species (the highest welfare standards in the UK) is that we buy local straw and silage feed from local farms which are not organic.”

Well how could we resist?! As a treat to ourselves then earlier this week, we visited the charming pub opposite the farm, The Jolly Waggoner, to sample some of the farm’s other produce. The menu totally spoiled us, with stacks of us-friendly meat choices, as well as several very tempting veggie options. Adam and I both opted for the lamb though, his Dad the fish and chips, and his Mum the pork belly. ALL the dishes were amazing! Our lamb was perfectly cooked and accompanied by delicious pommes Anna and a scrummy jus….the pork belly was laden with amazing crackling and the huge battered hake was just perfect.

Prone to temptation as we are, we all went on to relish a pudding of walnut cake with butterscotch sauce….this too was just to die for and left us all very jolly and contented indeed! They serve real ales too, with a selection of guest ales from local breweries, and the wine list is pretty impressive too. We are sure to be back in search of a Sunday Roast!

Church Farm also boasts a woodland play area, walking trails, tea rooms and a campsite! All in all, seriosuly worth a visit!

Ems x

Wednesday Wants: Strangely Yours on Etsy

I’m always finding gorgeous things as I browse Etsy…..lovely new shops, unique gifts and clever products that capture my imagination. It’s not that often though that I find a shop FULL of very, very *me* things….

Strangely Yours though is very much my cup of tea. Wonderfully whimsical, imaginative and exciting, each darling piece of jewellery would sit happily amongst my collection. I adore the etched wood, the clever compartments and secrets….these designs remind me of my childhood when hidden messages and secret stashing places were the stuff of my daydreams. Not that they’re not still!

Here are six of my favourites from the charming Etsy shop…..

Polaroid Camera Locket, £22.56

“This retro little camera has a tiny film that slides in and out, making it look like your photos are really developing! If you are an avid Polaroid taker or instagrammer, this wooden camera makes an awesome accessory! Proudly display your best photo, or a special occasion in the space of the black square. Laser cut from wood, the “flim” is made from white & black acrylic, with a gold mirror for a lens.”

Personalised ‘Message in a tree’ Necklace, £16.70

“Like lovers scratching their names into the bark of unsuspecting trees with their keys, vandalize the poor trees no more! Now you can carve a special date, name or message into the hollow of your very own secret tree! A little slide up door shields your messages from prying eyes. Etch the date of your anniversary, or lover’s names. Maybe you have words of encouragement to give to someone, or perhaps a personal motto that keeps you going. Either way this little stump is your very own private hollow!”

How adorable would this be as a wedding gift?! (*Hints to her Groom*)

Bow and Arrow Layered Necklaces, £15.41

“A minimalistic bow and arrow pairing. Both arrow and bow are individual necklaces that look great layered together, or each on its own! Etched with geometric markings on wood, these lovelies are then hand painted. Gold rings accents are added for a tribal style with a single gold feather paired with the arrow.”

Having just completed my beginners archery course, I feel this would be a rather apt treat to myself!

‘The Collector’ Wooden Crate Locket, £16.70

“Little crate lockets you can really keep stuff in. If you’re the sort to pick up small bones & pebbles on long walks, or maybe some pretty glass found on the beach, this unique little locket is a cool way to hold your secret finds!Its also a great way to hide little surprises.. pop a small photo inside, or a meaningful note. If you are forgetful like we are, a folded grocery list, or just some change for bus fare. Whatever the reason, these little crates are are sure to be a conversation starter. Choose from a few phrases to fit your purpose. “Fragile/Caution/Radioactive/Top secret/Do not feed” or engrave your own custom text! These miniature crates are hand crafted in our home studio. Each piece is unique and will have its own variations in coloring and distress markings just like a real crate!”

I just adore these….and I am totally the kind of person who picks up bits and bobs on walks!

Personalised Vintage Sewing Machine Necklace, £22.56

“A beautiful rustic sewing machine modeled after a vintage Singer. Cut from solid cherry wood and engraved with detailed floral flourishes, it features a tiny spool that has been threaded with real thread, a wheel that really spins, and a tiny gold needle! Sew cute! And as added bonus, personalize “The Seamstress” with a name instead.”

What a gorgeous gift idea for a crafty sewer!

Woodlands Secret Locket Necklace, £22.56

“An adorable handcrafted piece, stash away your secret finds with this little locket! 2 squirrels holding an acorn stand atop the headpiece with a whimsically victorian motif. The little key works as the latch, pop the key and open the tiny doors! This miniature locket is fully functional and just like some closets, can hold a few skeletons!”

If I had to choose just one thing from this amazing collection, it would be this. So imaginative, charming and whimsical….love love love!!!

I want it allllll!!!!

Ems x