Since I saw you last….

Yes, I know that’s a Gary Barlow song. And no, I won’t apologise for the ear worm.

Anyways! Hello! Long time! It’s been a seriously busy few months, and possibly the most momentous time ever for me. So, without further ado, here’s a whistle stop tour of what I’ve been up to…..

April was really all about wedding prep….making favours, up-cycling furniture for the reception, and oh, you know, making my wedding dress! Just as everyone always says it does, the wedding came round so fast and there was some frantic organising done in those last few weeks! We did manage to fit in some fun and relaxation though, and on the last weekend in April we hosted our joint Hen and Stag do!

Wedding Crafting

Wedding Crafting

Neither of us was terribly keen on doing separate Hen and Stag parties, and whilst we initially intended not to bother at all, when we hatched an idea to do them together we thought it’d be fun. We booked our fabulous dance teachers (Modern Jive World Champions!) Lee and Dawn to teach a bunch of us for a few hours in a local hall. It was great to have lots of friends meet each other for the first time, and the dancing was a brilliant ice breaker as we had to keep swapping partners throughout the class. Even the hounds came along and dressed up for the occasion too! By the end of it we were all pretty good at the little routine, which we vowed to practise and use at the wedding reception a few weeks later.

007 Cooper

007 Cooper

Rock n Roll Digby

Rock n Roll Digby

Afterwards we met up with more friends and had a yummy meal at our favourite Hitchin curry house (they do awesome veggie dishes), then made our way to one of our favourite bars in town to drink lots and lots of cocktails. We love the little Music Room at the back of the old Corn Exchange on the market square, and we have to admit that Pitcher and Piano have done a grand job with the place….not to mention their cocktails.

The morning after we were in need of some serious calories, so a bunch of us headed to The Groundworks for breakfast (the chorizo omlette the most popular) before everyone made their way back home and we began the final preparations for the wedding the following weekend!

Espresso and chocolate crepe at Just Desserts

Espresso and chocolate crepe at Just Desserts

During the week running up to the wedding I was also treated to a night out with my colleagues. We met just around the corner at Just Desserts, which as the name suggests, only serves puddings! We all toasted with fizzy and ate large amounts of waffles, crepes and sundaes, before I headed home wearing a flashing ‘Bride to Be’ sash and with a big bunch of cute balloons.

Bridal shower garms

Bridal shower garms

Bridal shower balloons

Bridal shower balloons

So next of course, we got married! I’ll leave off all the details and photos for now as I’ll write about all that separately. Suffice to say, we had the most amazing time ever though! We actually did the ceremony bit in Greenwich on the 3rd of May, then followed up with the reception on the 24th…..we like to drag things out! Anyway, it was the most wonderful excuse to spend time and have lots of fun with our nearest and dearest, so I’ll look forward to sharing more soon. Here’s one sneak peek of a photo for now though!…..

Me and him on our wedding day in Greenwich

Me and him on our wedding day in Greenwich

In between the ceremony day and the reception, we were super busy getting things ready for the big party. Adam finished work a couple of days before the wedding, so he had a few weeks to help me out with the huge amount of craft and DIY projects we had planned. We did make time for a few dates though, and it was lovely to enjoy his time off with some cocktails and meals out. We discovered (after way too long!) that the Hermitage Road Restaurant, which is just a few minutes walk from us, serves some seriously good cocktails, and we also enjoyed an amazing Thai meal at Sukawatee opposite.

My Husband and a rather yummy cocktail in a tin mug

My Husband and a rather yummy cocktail in a tin mug

We had another week between the wedding reception and going on honeymoon, which we used in part to recover from the party! We both came down with colds, which was a real drag and stopped us from doing all the sorting we’d planned. The house looked like a party supplier had exploded in it, with excess furniture cluttering up the place, and various random things hanging around such as small wooden windmills, boxes of jam jars and copious amounts of left over booze. We did however enjoy spending time going through all our cards and messages, opening gifts, reading the recipes people had given us (we asked for these instead of having a gift registry) and laughing at all the photo booth pictures. We were so very ready for our holiday by the time we set off for the airport though….we’ve not had a proper sunny summer holiday for years and couldn’t wait to relax by the pool!

Waiting for our second flight of three to our honeymoon destination

Waiting for our second flight of three to our honeymoon destination

After thirty hours of travelling (eeep!) we were finally welcomed to our stunning hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali. The relief as we sunk into the huge sofa in the air conditioned club room was immense, and the yummy cold cocktails and gifts we were brought made us start to think it had all been worth it. After checking in, we went to our room to find yet more gifts, and un-packed as we awaited our room service supper before crashing into bed. The time difference and the flights had all happily made it so that we could fall asleep at our usual bed time, bang on bed time in Bali….although that said, we were still rather lazy in the morning and didn’t get to breakfast until pretty late! We spent the day eating, drinking cocktails and exploring the resort….nicely settling in to the incredible weather and the laid back vibe.

Pretty much my view for most of the holiday

Pretty much my view for most of the holiday

Again, hopefully I’ll write in more detail about our trip….we did quite a few activities and excursions (not to mention three trips to the amazing spa!) so there’s lots to write, and stacks of photos too. We totally fell in love with Bali though, and would really recommend it for a holiday….the weather is spot on, the people are delightful and the food is terrific! In the mean time, here’s a few of my iPhone snaps to show you some of the highlights…..

The view from our lovely room

The view from our lovely room

Room service breakfast on the morning of one of our excursions

Room service breakfast on the morning of one of our excursions

Our trip to a coffee and spice plantation, including an awesome coffee tasting with a view to die for

Our trip to a coffee and spice plantation, including an awesome coffee tasting with a view to die for

We saw lots of traditional, local dances, including a wonderful fire dance performance

We saw lots of traditional, local dances, including a wonderful fire dance performance

I LOVED meeting a whole lot of monkeys on one of our outings!

I LOVED meeting a whole lot of monkeys on one of our outings!

We were in Bali for two weeks and loved every minute of it. We did miss the dogs terribly though (my Mum looked after them for the first week, Adam’s Mum for the second) and so were ready to come home to see them. They were a sight for sore eyes when we got home after another thirty hour journey, and their reaction to our return was wonderful. They’d been a little spoiled whilst we were away, with lie-ins in the grown up beds and endless sofa time cuddles, but they were still very pleased to see us and seeing them made parting with Bali all the more bearable!

Adam had a full week off after our return, which was a real treat. We made the most of it and planned lots of meet ups and outings and things….all of which was made even better by the fabulous weather we came home to! By a happy coincidence a bunch of our friends had the Friday of that week off, so we met up in a local park for a picnic. We made up a load of Pimm’s with ginger ale and got a stack of yummy treats from M&S, which we scoffed whilst sitting in the gorgeous sun. It was so nice to come home to such great weather after being so spoiled on holiday, and better still to be able to spend time outdoors with friends.

Picnic Pimm's

Picnic Pimm’s

The indulgences continued as we met friends again for afternoon treats at Just Desserts…..it was lovely enough to sit out in the garden there as we ate delicious sundaes, waffles and crepes.

Just Desserts crew

Just Desserts crew

Then on the Sunday we celebrated my birthday. Adam made me breakfast to have out in the garden, which was just lovely, and I had a whole lot of wonderful birthday cards and gifts to open too.

Birthday breakfast in the garden

Birthday breakfast in the garden

Later we went out for an amazing Sunday roast lunch at The a Black Horse at Ireland….I had their seriously good roast chicken followed by an incredible poached peach dessert which came with a slice of courgette loaf and a stunning coconut panna cotta!

Black Horse birthday pudding

Black Horse birthday pudding

Our first proper day out was to Wimpole Hall, which is a stunning National Trust property about half an hour away. We took the dogs with us and explored the extensive grounds with them first….they love adventuring in new places and the walk was a lovely change to our usual haunts.

The hounds discover a Gothic folly

The hounds discover a Gothic folly

We dropped the dogs back off at the car for a bit whilst we went to look around the gardens, then had a picnic lunch at the car to check on them. Then it was into the house to see all the incredible interiors and chat to the super knowledgeable volunteers in each room. We came away dreaming of a house with a library like the one there, and I know I certainly coveted more than a few of the incredible ornaments all over the place!

After a final check on the dogs, we went to see the charming home farm where we met some darling little piglets, then stopped in at the impressive walled garden before doing a spot of shopping on the way out…. I treated myself to one of their gorgeous picnic blankets made from oddments of yarn, and Adam splurged on some yummy wines and raspberry curd.

Wimpole Hall really is worth a visit if you’re in the area….there’s easily a full day’s worth of things to do there, and they even put on outdoor theatre events in the summer which I bet are worth checking out.

The library at Wimpole Hall

The library at Wimpole Hall

As our second little day trip we decided to drive to Ampthill, in search of the wonderful antiques emporium there. I’d never been to the sweet little market town before, and was delighted to to find that the emporium was even larger and grander than I’d thought! Spread over three floors are stacks of treasures, from old shop fittings and stunning lamps, to rocking horses and vintage clothing. Some of the furniture is just incredible, and there are lots of collectables to root through too. I fell in love with a very old and shabby rocking donkey, who I’d have loved to have taken home to revamp, but with a house fit to burst after all the wedding additions I left without him. I did treat myself to a beautiful silk scarf though, in my current favourite colours of coral and spearmint.

The Ampthill Antiques Emporium

The Ampthill Antiques Emporium

Afterward we found a darling little tea room called Cakestand and Crumb, where we had delicious sandwiches and seriously yummy cake to follow. Everything in there is super cute and chintzy, and I just adored the vintage record player and the lovely old tunes it put out.

Me in my new scarf at Cupcake and Crumb

Me in my new scarf at Cupcake and Crumb

There was still more to look forward to as our amazing wedding photographer Sharon delivered our wedding pictures! They were all wrapped up beautifully with local lavender and lots of other little gifts in a darling linen bag Sharon had made! We just loved going through them all and couldn’t be more grateful for all of Sharon’s hard work….she really goes above and beyond!

Wedding photo package

Wedding photo package

Sharon also featured one of our wedding shots in a local exhibition for the Humanitas charity, which took place in the barn at The George in Hitchin. The theme was ‘Imagining Animals’ and her photo of Adam in a giant panda head, with our guests around us in panda masks looked great amongst all the other wonderful local artwork.

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Exhibitionists!

Soon though it was time to get back to work, although I softened the blow by treating myself to a new pair of shoes to wear to the office….I’d been eying up the silver and white Hamble brogues from Clarkes and when they came into the sale I had to have them (I’d love the Taupe version for winter next!).

Back to school shoes

Back to school shoes

We also had to set to work on finding a new place to live, as we have to move out of our house in Hitchin! We opted to make the move up to West Yorkshire a couple of years earlier than planned, and after a huge amount of faffing, to-ing and fro-ing we finally found a place in Otley. The next job of course was to pack….a job which has filled most of our time since, and is still very much on-going! We’ve loved the fine weather though….it seems a real treat to have had a ‘proper summer’ and to get to wear summery dresses and whatnot. The dogs have enjoyed it too, with lots of paddles in the river and even their very first ice lollies!

Cooper's first blueberry ice lolly!

Cooper’s first blueberry ice lolly!

We spent one lovely sunny weekend with friends Dan and Brigitte, who came for an overnight visit. We took them to The Groundworks for their ‘Late Night Sessions’ cocktail night, which was a great way to spend a hot evening! I especially enjoyed the Gabriella cocktail which came with a rocket lolly dunked in it!

Late Night Sessions at The Grounworks

Late Night Sessions at The Groundworks

Another lush Saturday was spent at my dear friend Claire’s home for her Bridal Shower. Fellow bridesmaid Eileen hosted the Parisian themed afternoon, and I helped with chintzy china and bunting. I ate far too many macaroons and drank far too much fizz, but we had a lovely time playing games and chatting!

Parisian Bridal Shower

Parisian Bridal Shower

And because the last few months have been all about utter indulgence, we took a trip to a favourite local Italian restaurant in Letchworth, where we scoffed yummy pasta before heading to Hitchin Lavender to take some sunset photos. It really is stunning there, and it was lovely to go at ‘golden hour’.

Hannah in the lavender

Hannah in the lavender

Our next fun day out was into London for a very early Christmas present from me to Adam! I booked us onto a speciality whisky, bourbon and rye cocktail making masterclass at 69 Colebrooke Row, and we had an amazing time learning some new recipes and perfecting some old favourites. We also used the opportunity to scoff Fro Yo and drink Taro bubble tea whilst in Islington, as well as having a wander round the flea market.

Adam mixing with the pros at 69 Colebrooke Row

Adam mixing with the pros at 69 Colebrooke Row

We’ve been celebrating another amazing year for soft fruits, and harvested a bumper crop from our greengage tree. I made kilos of jam, a greengage and vanilla tart, and still had plenty left over to eat on their own! The garden has suffered somewhat due to my busyness, and is looking rather over grown! It has had a bit of TLC in the last week or so though, and there are lots of plants I want to dig up to take with us!

Ready to jam

Ready to jam

On Friday I travelled into London to meet my lovely friend Jo and her adorable one year old, Teddy. We had a good mosey along the Southbank (I loved the carnival performance in the Clore Ballroom with steel drums, brass band and dancers in neon pink tutu wigs!) before a gorgeous lunch at the Tate Modern. We walked back along the North bank together, then I was off to church at Aldwych for a wedding rehearsal! I had the honour of being Bridesmaid at Claire and Matthew’s wedding, and it was great to have chance to catch up with folk before the big day, not to mention getting some tips from Rev David on walking down the aisle in high heels, and drinking gin fizz afterwards!

Carnival fun

Carnival fun

Then yesterday was the big day itself! I travelled to Leyton to get ready with Claire and the other Bridesmaids….having a good cry when I buttoned her into her stunning dress and saw how utterly gorgeous she looked! We then travelled into town for the lovely ceremony (I loved singing the hymns and managed my role as veil monitor without disaster!) before heading to North London to the pretty cricket pavilion and marquee where the reception took place. The day was filled with fun and merriment, and all passed by so fast, but it was such a delight to be part of Claire and Matthew’s day.

Bridesmaids on the move

Bridesmaids on the move

Badger wedding cake

Badger wedding cake

We had our good friends Craig and Shelley stay over after the wedding, so this morning saw a lie in for me followed by lots of tea and chatting. They will actually be very near to us when we move so we packed them off with some of our more delicate cargo (the precious contents of Adam’s well stocked bar as well as some of my house plants!) and then the rest of the day has been about walking the dogs and lounging about.

This week will see a packing frenzy ahead of our big move next week…..I’m so excited to be in our new home town, but the thought of getting everything up there is rather a frightening one! Wish me luck as I bubble wrap and tape gun my way through all our junk! I’ll be sure to update you at the other end, but ta-tah for now!

Ems x

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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

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