Meat Free Week

As you’ve probably seen on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere already, this week is Meat Free Week! The global campaign is challenging us all to give up meat for the week, to get us thinking about how much meat we eat, and the impact of that on our health, the environment and animal welfare. It’s not just about red meat (beef, lamb and pork), but all meat, including poultry, processed meat (like ham, bacon, salami and packaged sandwich meats), fish and seafood.

Going meat free for one week is a really positive step for anyone; The hope being that for the other 51 weeks of the year you’ll consider eating smaller portions or fewer meat-based meals as part of a balanced diet, and also ensure that the meat, fish, eggs or poultry you eat is ethically and sustainably produced. I’ve written about my feelings on meat-eating before, and because this means I eat very little meat (those ‘meat-free mondays’ actually work better in opposite in our house as we’re only really likely to eat meat once a week!) I suppose this week will be relatively easy for me.

And that’s why I thought I’d share a load of recipes to encourage you to take part, and to show you how easy it is to eat meat free….really well! I adore my food, and I love meat and fish and all the rest, but because I am now very picky about these (in terms of welfare mostly) the increased cost means that it’s more of a treat than a staple. I’m sure that this has benefitted my health which is of course a bonus too.

Anyway, for our main meal today (we have this at lunch time, with a lighter supper later) I made a super delicious dish that took only ten minutes and didn’t require any special ingredients at all (in fact, all stuff we had in the fridge already). I cut a courgette into small cubes, and finely chopped up a small white onion (both from our excellent organic veg box from a local farm), frying them both in a knob of butter until soft and golden.

I then whipped up a simple four cheese sauce, by melting another knob of butter in a pan and adding a small carton of organic single cream. I grated in some of the AMAZING smoked Mrs Kirkham’s Lanchashire I bought at a farm shop recently, some organic mature cheddar, organic parmesan, and a little left over goats cheese that needed using up. Once that was all nice and melty, I thickened with a little sauce flour and cooked some fresh gnocchi in a second pan. Then it was just a case of combining the veg, cheese sauce and gnocchi…serving it up and scoffing the lot! SO quick and easy…..very satisying….and of course, meat free!

Well hopefully that’s enough to whet your appetite, and perhaps you’d also like to try some of these recipes to enjoy a week of meat free meals…..

I hope that gives you some inspiration to go meat free for the week….if you’d like any more ideas or advice please do leave a comment as I’d love to encourage anyone to join in!

You can sign up to the campaign here….. Good luck, and enjoy!

Ems x

British Pie Week, and my regular Friday Pie-day!

I never needed an excuse to eat pie. I’ve loved pie since very young, and I have fond memories of burning my tongue on scalding hot pie filling erupting from freshly made Wrights Pies (a delicacy of my native Stoke on Trent!). My all time favourite dish my Mummy cooks is her incredible mince meat pie and onion gravy….one day I will perfect it!

But in case unlike me you need an excuse, or perhaps the humble pie isn’t something you often opt for (I won’t hold it against you, promise), you may be interested to hear that we are currently in the middle of British Pie Week! Conceived to share the pie love, promote this wonderful British dish and to show people new and wonderful recipes, Pie Week is a perfect time to indulge in something yummy and pastry-encrusted!

Now we have a bit of a tradition in our house…..Friday Pie-day! Whilst we sometimes swap out for Fish Friday, we very often like to scoff a home made pie on a Friday….a sort of ‘you made it through the week!’ treat, and a way to use up whatever ingredients we may have languishing at the back of the fridge to boot!

For me, pie is best served with a creamy mash, but gravy is an absolute MUST (another Potteries, or perhaps Midlands thing I think!). But beyond that, anything goes in my book! I often use up the end of a ham in a pie with cheese sauce and leeks….I adore a fish pie….and anything with a mashed potato topping is a grand idea as far as I’m concerned (cottage pie and shepherds pie feature heavily).

We’ve recently taken up a new organic vegetable box subscription though, from nearby St Helen’s Farm in Tadcaster, and so this week I’ve had some squash that I need to use up. I visited Fodder in Harrogate yesterday and came away with a log of Yellison Goats Cheese which is also made nearby in Skipton. So along with some other things I needed to use up, I made up a tasty pie filling in a rich tomato-based sauce.

It always feels quite rewarding to home-make a pie, but it’s really the easiest thing. I like making pies when we have guests as I can pre-prepare the filling, then clean up before finishing them off in the oven once our guests arrive.

For this pie I simply peeled and cubed the squash, and roasted it in the oven until soft. Then I fried up some onion and garlic, followed by sliced fennel and spring greens. Oh and some chick peas left over from a salad earlier in the week. Next I added a tin of chopped tomatoes (the fresh ones we got in our box are long gone!) to the whole lot, seasoned well and reduced slightly before spooning into pie dishes, crumbling in some of the cheese and topping with puff pastry. Lush!

Ems x

It’s Pancake Day, It’s Pancake Day, It’s PPPP-PPPP Pancake Day!

Like the man said…it’s Pancake Day! And I for one will be enjoying a day of mostly eating batter based foods! I bally love this day….it wouldn’t occur to me to make a meal of pancakes any other day of the year (with the exception of a breakfast of American style pancakes now and again!) and I love the excuse to gorge. I even made a Pinterest board this year with ideas….I like to have both sweet and savoury options, you know, to make it a balanced meal of course.

For breakfast we had Belgian waffles with banana and maple syrup. Then for lunch I had another go at making Okonomiyake, which is a sort of Japanese pancake. This dish is a favourite of Adam’s and although I’ve never had it ‘properly’ in Japan, I’ve been trying to learn to make it. Last week’s attempt was rather poor, but I think today’s was pretty good!

Home made Okonomiyake, or Japanese pancake for Shrove Tuesday

I based mine loosely on the recipes in my Pinterest board, with (as usual) a couple of changes for my own taste (and to use up things we had in the cupboard!). Here’s how I made it…..

  • I mixed one cup of flour with one cup of chicken stock, then added one beaten free range egg to form a batter.
  • Then I stirred in a large handful of savoy cabbage and one small leek (both finely sliced and from our yummy organic veg box) and seasoned.
  • Next I heated up a large non-stick skillet and sprayed a little olive oil onto the surface before pouring the mixture in.
  • Having spread the mixture out as much as possible, I pressed it all down into as thin a ‘pancake’ as I could, and let it cook for about eight minutes until the underside was golden.
  • Then I slid the pancake onto a plate, added a little more oil to the pan as well as some strips of free range streaky bacon.
  • Next I flipped the pancake onto another plate before sliding it back into the pan with the cooked side on top.
  • It was then just a case of waiting for the bacon to cook well, and the pancake browning nicely before serving it all up!

To top our Okonomiyake I mixed up a dessert spoon each of ketchup and barbecue sauce with two dessert spoons of Henderson’s relish and a teaspoon of golden caster sugar. We spooned this sort of Tonkatsu sauce onto our pancakes along with some mayonnaise, which I believe is the traditional topping. Yummy!

For supper this evening we’re planning some more traditional crepe-like pancakes with lemon juice and sugar….although I think I’ll also make some of these delicious sounding apple, banana and cinnamon pancakes to try, and maybe even some of these fabulous looking cinnamon roll pancakes too!

How do you like your pancakes?!

Ems x

Lately…..enjoying the festive season!

A very happy festive season to you all! I do hope you’ve had a great Christmas with lots of relaxing and food and whatnot!

We’ve been enjoying a pretty chilled week on holiday, seeing family, eating lots and slobbing around a fair bit too. It’s been a lovely respite after several weeks of busyness, which I thought I’d quickly catch up on now….

Hand painted Capybara Christmas card by Under a Glass Sky on Etsy

The run up to Christmas is always busy for me, like for lots of people. This year I was better prepared for it though, and managed to stay on top of my orders really well, leaving enough time to enjoy the season too!

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As well as all my online sales, I hosted a little stall at a Christmas craft fair at the Otley Courthouse…..it was a great excuse to break out my Christmas jumper early!

Edinburgh castle on a bright winter's day

At the end of November, Adam drove us up to visit friends in Edinburgh, where we spent a really fun weekend. It was my first ever trip to Scotland (can you believe it?!) so we did all the touristy sightseeing things!

Tourist spots of Edinburgh; Greyfriar's Bobby

Everywhere was getting super Christmassy, with a couple of big Christmas markets in town…it was a wonderful way to start feeling all festive!

Giant Christmas Nutcracker

The following weekend we met up with some friends for a lovely long dog walk at Bolton Abbey. There was even a little Christmas market there, and it was great to catch up with people and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings too.

Bolton Abbey

We also took a Christmassy trip to Harrogate, where a friend was hosting a stall at the big Country Living Christmas Fair. We also stopped in at the Christmas market in the Montpelier Quarter, although it was rather too busy for us to enjoy properly!

Harrogate Christmas Market

December began, of course, with advent calendars! Adam’s Mum always buys us the Cadbury’s ones, and I love having the chocolate with my morning coffee! I made for Adam a treasure hunt advent, whereby he had to solve a riddle each day to find each day’s treat. And for the first time we treated the hounds to a rather specical advent calendar each from Barney’s Biscuit Boxes, which were sold to raise funds for Pup Aid! They were filled with lots of yummy natural treats, which the boys just loved!

Advent calendars for all the family, including the dogs

The Christmas Fair at Leeds Donkey Sanctuary was a great excuse to go and visit, so we went with Adam’s parents, Brother, Sister in Law, and our little niece. We got to meet some of the donkeys who Adam’s Mum adopts, and we adopted some as Christmas gifts and one for ourselves too! There was a donkey ride to see Father Christmas for the children, lots of donkeys to fuss over, and a wonderful cake stall to boot!

Leeds Donkey Sanctuary

The scones from the fair were to die for, and it being the season of frivolity and all, we had some for breakfast the following morning!

Home made scones with tea

We finally got around to hanging our huge map in the living room, which along with the Christmas tree and other decorations made the place look a whole lot brighter!

Giant London map, posing dog

In exchange for help hanging the map, we cooked up a pork belly for friends, which was a good warm up to all the Christmas eating! We also took advantage of the holidays to do lots of baking and cooking, which I always enjoy when we get chance.

Pork belly roasted with maple and fennel

Otley holds a big Victorian Christmas Fayre every year, and so we went to see all that was going on. There were tombolas, crafty things to buy, school choirs on the stage, a Punch and Judy, and several beautiful fair organs which played wonderful Christmas music! We treated ourselves to a hog roast after Adam had tried his luck with most of the tombolas!

Antique Fair Organ

We did a little more exploring locally, looking for places that we might like to call home, and also took our first proper trip into Leeds since we moved! We met up with some local friends and had a wonderful supper at Little Tokyo, then were lucky enough to get the last four tickets to see The Wood Beneath The World….set underneath Leeds Town Hall, the installation-come-promenade experience was incredibly chilling, but also very exciting and inspiring.

The Wood Beneath The World, alternative Christmas experience at Leeds Town Hall crypt

Then on Christmas Eve we bought a house! We’d seen it the weekend prior, and viewed it a second time before making an offer….and some time in the new year we’ll be moving into our very own first home! We are extremely excited to own our own place and have lots of plans for when we get there!

Georgian, double fronted house in West Yorkshire

Christmas morning saw a lovely dog walk, gift unwrapping and a yummy breakfast of duck eggs. Then we went over to Adam’s parents’ place for a big Christmas lunch, with more gifts and festivities.

A hound and his Christmas present

Then in the evening we slobbed out at home….Adam got me lots of Wes Anderson films for Christmas and we started to make our way through those whilst I enjoyed  coffee and cognac (one of my favourites!).

 

Coffee, Delamain cognac and Wes Anderson films

We headed back to Adam’s parents for a big leftover lunch on boxing day, and today I made us all a cottage pie lunch. In between it’s been more lounging about, eating chocolates and running a few errands. We’ve started watching the extended version of the Lord of the Rings films, which will keep us busy, and we have more plans for the week ahead to look forward to.

I hope you’ve had a great Christmas too!

Ems x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something from the weekend: Visitors, treats and yums…

Beautiful mauve roses brought in from our little garden

Beautiful mauve roses brought in from our little garden

I do love it when the weekend starts early! And this one did as we recieved surprise (ish) visitors in the shape of the lovely Claire and Matthew. On their way to a wedding in the North, they joined us for our ritual Friday PieDay supper (Shepherd’s Pie this week!) as well as great chats, and much reviewing of Rightmove (at least we’re not the only ones who are addicted!).

Cooper the lurcher giving us our Saturday morning wake up call

Cooper the lurcher giving us our Saturday morning wake up call

Saturday began as usual with a wake up call from Cooper, followed by a dog walk. Then after a quick coffee we decided to walk into town for Brunch. We opted to do a little shopping and browsing first and as we’d not popped into our favourite Otley gallery in a while, went to see what treasures were to be found in the stunning Old Grammar School Gallery. As usual, there were lots of gorgeous things to spy and we had a very nice long chat with the proprietor who actually used to go to school in the building our house is now in!

We’d been eying up the incredible paintings on show there by Sheryl Ashton….the very large one in particular is a big favourite of ours but unfortunately beyond our budget (though still a steal for such amazing work!). So, when it was pointed out to us that there were a few of her original works to be purchased un-framed, we eagerly leafed through the browsers and found a stunning painting by her that we both adored….and at uncommonly decisive speed, Adam snapped it up to bring home! We’re very excited about framing and hanging it, and adding to our home!

Our Sheryl Ashton painting all wrapped up, from The Old Grammar School Gallery in Otley

‘Sold’, our Sheryl Ashton painting all wrapped up, from The Old Grammar School Gallery in Otley

For our brunch we headed to the pretty little Victoria Plum Tea Rooms. We’re hoping to try all of the tea rooms in Otley (there are a great many!) but this one had caught my eye with its quaint frontage and yummy sounding menu. Feeling pretty hungry I chose a double fried free range egg bap, with a double choc mocha alongside. Adam went for the toasted tea cake followed by a home made scone….all of which was seriously delish!

Double free range fried egg bap at Victoria Plum Tea Room, Otley

Double free range fried egg bap at Victoria Plum Tea Room, Otley

Double Choc Mocha at Victoria Plum Tea Room, Otley

Double Choc Mocha at Victoria Plum Tea Room, Otley

The afternoon saw more errands, shopping and dog walking, along with a light supper and some slobbing in front of the TV!

Having enjoyed our extra hour’s sleep, Sunday brought more adventures as we received more visitors! Friends Sam and Ellie live not too far away from our new home, so they came over to see the new place and explore Otley. After a cup of tea and a catch up, we headed to the Craft Market at the Courthouse, then the monthly Farmers’ Market in the square. Sam and Ellie are foodies too, so we all enjoyed snooping around the stalls and buying up lots of treats and yums. They kindly treated Cooper and Digby to their favourite hand made treats, and we all shared some tiny Dutch pancakes called Poffertjes which were seriously yummy!

I found a new favourite stall though….the Convivial Yorkshire Crisp Company were there with lots of different flavours to try! Most notable were the Henderson’s sauce flavour which is SO good, and the Chardonnay Wine Vinegar flavour which are most unusual and very tasty. As a crisp connoisseur I can certainly recommend them, and will be munching through a great many I dare say!

Lastly, we all got a huge bap filled with hog roast and stuffing to bring home with us, and yummed those up along with some of the sweet treats.

Convivial Yorkshire Crisps from Otley Farmers' Market

Convivial Yorkshire Crisps from Otley Farmers’ Market

After that we took a dog walk together to work off some of the eating; Sam and Ellie loving to see Cooper and Digby playing and running at the park. Then after one more cuppa for the road, they set off home and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting some more slobbing in…and eating a whole tub of the crisps in my case!

Ems x

Foodie Friday: Cuban Style Rice

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Adam and I have been meaning to make more new and interesting suppers for weeks. I rather lost my cooking mojo when the hot weather came along and haven’t been bothered to make anything excited for ages. So in the hope of restoring some interest again, we trawled through our cookbooks and planned a few meals for the week.

Last night was a quick and simple dish from the brilliant Spanish cookery book, which was in fact a gift from my lovely Spanish friend many years ago. I can’t say I wasn’t a little vexed to find that what had looked like a really easy dish required no less than FIVE pans (seriously, most of what I cook only needs one so I was less than impressed) but I did manage to reduce this down to three by tinkering with the recipe, and the results were worth the washing up.

Most of the ingredients are things we have in the house all the time, so I can see this becoming a bit of a go-to dish when we’re low on supplies and time, but still want something satisfying to cook. It took me only about 20 minutes to knock together, and rather less time to yum up!

What you will need (to serve two):

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • Long grain rice (however much you’d usually cook for two)
  • 1 large or 2 small bananas, sliced
  • butter
  • 2 large free range or organic eggs
  • salt
  • paprika

How to make it:

  1. Heat a little oil in a sauce pan then brown the chopped onion and two sliced cloves of garlic.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes as well as the thyme, and bring to the boil before simmering for a good ten minutes.
  3. Whilst that’s bubbling away, cook your rice in a second saucepan, adding a whole garlic clove into the water.
  4. Add a little olive oil to a large frying pan and brown a sliced clove of garlic.
  5. Drain the cooked rice and tip into the frying pan, frying just for a couple of minutes.
  6. Plate up the rice and pop it in the oven to keep it warm, and give the pan a quick wipe with a bit of kitchen towel.
  7. Heat a knob of butter in the frying pan, then slowly caramelise your sliced banana in there.
  8. Add the banana to your plated up rice and return to the oven, then give the pan a quick wipe again.
  9. Heat a little olive oil and fry your eggs, seasoning with salt and paprika.
  10. Pour the sauce around your rice and plate up your eggs on top.

Yummy! We couldn’t believe how well all the flavours went together, especially the banana which really makes this dish.

Enjoy!

Ems x

Something from the weekend…. a rather special birthday and a pretty big surprise!

What a fun weekend we had!

Friday was Adam’s Mum’s 70th Birthday, for which we’d been planning a surprise party for weeks! I set about readying the house and baking for the celebrations on Friday afternoon, before heading over to see the birthday girl in the evening. We shared a bottle to toast, and gave her the gift we’d made….Adam had scanned and photo-shopped an old photo of him and his brothers, getting rid of the faded colours and imperfections to make a good-as-new photo! Liz loved it, as well as the other stacks of gifts she’d received from her friends!

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Rather successful Lemon Drizzle Cake!

On Saturday morning we were busy from early on, making salads and quiches and whatnot, and putting up balloons! We were only just about ready when the doorbell rang for the first guests….we’d asked everyone to arrive at 2pm so that Adam’s Dad could bring Liz round at half past and she wouldn’t spot anyone coming in! We are so used to our friends being late that it was quite the surprise to have everyone arrive bang on time!

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Adam brought back amazing breakfast pastries from his trip to Quotidian for the bread

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Balloons!!

Liz arrived right on time too with the dogs….they knew right away in fact that something was going on, but Liz was thoroughly shocked when I opened the living room door to reveal 20 of her friends! She’d thought she was coming round for a quiet afternoon tea with just Adam and I so there was quite a lot of swearing when she realised we’d all plotted together to surprise her! She was delighted though to see all her friends together, and I certainly loved having the house full of happy chatter!

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Liz, Adam and Me (and what was left of the spread by cake cutting time!)

We were exhausted by the time the last guests had left and we’d tidied up from the feast we’d prepared, so we skulked off to bed at a ridiculously early hour of 7pm to watch American Horror Story (we’re now on Season 2: Asylum) and eat left overs from a sort of bed-buffet tray!

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Newton got the post-party blues

Sunday started with the traditional and much-needed lie in, before we headed out to the market for the weekly car boot sale. I relished the fact that as I’ve sold quite a few bits from my new vintage shop on Etsy, I could allow myself to buy up lots of new treasure! We certainly left the market with a good haul, and rewarded ourselves with a brunch of coffee and pancakes at the super-quaint Halseys Deli and Tea Rooms.

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The car boot sale haul!

After that we made our way up to Adam’s parents cottage to help his Mum use the bread maker she’d received as a birthday gift from her friends. I’ve not used one for many years, and they seem to have developed and improved a lot, so I was very impressed with how easy it was to prepare a simple wholemeal loaf. We left it to bake whilst we took a walk around the nearby Priory grounds to see all the snowdrops in bloom. They’re so enchanting scattered about the woods, and it’s just a shame that they don’t photograph very well…I find it impossible to show how pretty they are and get the white balance right!

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Seriously yummy home-baked bread

Once back, we took out the now baked bread and were SO impressed with how it came out….it’s not at all like the bread maker bread I’ve tried before (which I always found a bit too solid) and is just deliciously light and fluffy! We tested some just with butter and loved it! We had an early supper, and another very early night….yumming up scones with jam and clotted cream in bed whilst watching more American Horror Story (it’s SO much better than the first season and we’re quite hooked!).

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Naughty supper in bed!

How was your weekend?

Ems x

Living for the weekend….dealing with the post Christmas blues

That sky is grey again. And it’s all cold out there (and not in a Christmassy-winter-wonderland way). Still, the weekend is already here, and so I’ve been thinking of ways to fill it with fun stuff to take my mind off the fact it’s no longer Christmas. (Yes, I *am* still talking about Christmas, sorry)…..

Planning for the year

January is always full of the dulls. Everyone is shattered after the festivities, low on funds, and trying to catch up and get back to normal. But I find that there’s nothing like having something to look forward to to cheer me up, so I’ve been enjoying making lots of plans. I’ve bought tickets, made bookings, and started organising fun adventures to keep me busy and excited for the months to come. Get your diaries out!

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DIY Projects

With all the Christmas decorations gone, I know I’m looking forward to sprucing up the house a bit and starting work on some little DIY projects I’ve been planning. We have a Welsh dresser to sand and paint, and a few little tables and plant stands that I want to make-over. It’s a cheap and fun way to spend time, and you get the reward of something pretty to brighten your home at the end of it!

Bring in the Spring!

I don’t know about you, but I’m aching for the new season already! I’m bored of the cold and grey, and I want to see the Spring flowers come up. I’ve instigated this ahead of schedule by buying some lovely stocks to brighten up and scent the house…they look great in the Moomin Papa hat vase that I got for Christmas!

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Baking and Cooking

I know that every other person is on some kind of diet or detox, but I firmly believe that in order not to go cold turkey, you need to slowly wind down from the festive gluttony. I’m still not used to *not* having a pudding after every meal (yes, including breakfast) and being surrounded by naughty treats. And so to ween myself off, and hopefully shed a few of the holiday pounds, I think it’s only sensible to get doing some good home cooking and baking. You’re more in control when you make it yourself, so you can start to think more healthy and reduce portions, whilst still technically treating yourself and avoiding going into complete withdrawal! I have had some success with new recipes, including making French Onion soup for the first time in years….yum!

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Check on those resolutions!

It’s not too late to revise them, so have another look at whatever list you may have made and think about how realistic it all is. If you’re getting on well, well done you! If not so much, there’s no shame in re-working your list….you’ll do better for it in the end! I have done OK so far…..I have started getting myself sorted by way of a spider diagram (LOVE THEM), as well as playing around with the new pop-up studio Adam gave me for Christmas to help with my photography!

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Go for a walk

I’d much rather kick off the new year with a nice country walk than a fad diet or detox. It’s far more fun and much easier to stick with too! The weather has been pretty gruesome all told, but the rain seems to be staying away rather more at the minute so why not take a nice long stroll this weekend? Extra points for finding a pub lunch along your way!

Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happy adventuring,

Ems x

Something from the weekend….our first overnight guests!

I’m still feeling pretty pantsy all told (hence the late posting of this), but we just *had* to have lots of fun this weekend because we received our first overnight guests! Dear friends Matthew and Siobhan made the journey up from London to spend the weekend with us, straight from work on Friday. It was so lovely to catch up with them, and host them in our new home.

I had spent much of Friday cooking, so that I didn’t need to do too much whilst our guests were here. But we scoffed some lovely cake that Siobhan had made first of all (apple, pear and almond…yum!) along with a pot of tea, then it was a tour of the house before a supper of cottage pie. We had some of Adam’s wonderful dark chocolate and banana loaf for pudding, and then he made us Mint Juleps and Espresso Martinis whilst we chatted the evening away!

On Saturday morning, I served up a big kedgeree breakfast to set us up for the day, and then we took the short walk to the amazing Eric T Moore bookshop. Matthew especially loved the place, and at more than one point we lost him and thought he may just spend the entire weekend there! I picked up some yummy rosemary bread and brownies for lunch from our favourite local bakery, Quotidian, then we toured our guests around town. I had surprisingly managed to remember quite a lot of the things we’d learned on our recent Hitchin History walk and the Ghost walk, so I shared lots of random bits of information as we browsed a few shops.

After that, we took them into St Mary’s church, which is right in the centre of town and the largest church in the county. It’s pretty opulent and really rather impressive! Then we stopped in on the market on the way home, clean forgetting that we had bought brownies already and picking up some obscenely huge cream cakes for later.

I had made Sweet Potato soup with ginger, chilli, lime and coconut for our lunch, which we yummed up alongside the delicious Quotidian bread. Then it was off out again, and over the road to the British Schools Museum where there was an exhibition for the local art club. We saw some wonderful pieces, all at very reasonable prices too!

From there we took the little walk around to Adam’s parents’ place to pick up the dogs, and then from there we walked over to the old Priory grounds for a little stroll. Newton was rather nervous, as he always is this time of year, due to the gun shots of nearby pheasant shooters, but we managed to pay a visit to the Charlton Pig Table and say hello to our piggy friends!

It was a lazy supper on Saturday, as we headed over to our brilliant local pub, The Half Moon, for some lovely beer and pub grub. The pub dog ‘Moon’ was unusually friendly and spent lots of time sniffing around our table for any bits of food (which we weren’t allowed to give to her) and a little affection. Then back at home we gorged on the cream cakes we’d bought and sat around drinking liqueurs and playing board games.

On Sunday morning we continued the gluttony with a breakfast of Belgian waffles with bananas and maple syrup, then attempted to walk it off a little with a pootle around the market and the car boot sale. It was great to get there at a reasonable hour again as the traders really don’t all hang around! I picked up some very lovely miniature playing cards, a wonderful old book of pianforte music and a stunning children’s tea set from the 1940s!

Once home again, we just about had time to conclude the complete tour of the house by showing our guests the cellar and the garden. It was a beautiful day out, so lovely to see the garden all autumnal and sunny. We picked a big handful of fresh bay leaves for Matthew and Siobhan to take home, then made our way to the station as they needed to get back into town for lunch.

Adam and I spent the rest of the afternoon on another walk with the dogs, before heading to Adam’s parents’ for a supper of fajitas. Then it was home for more X Files and an early night. Rather blissful weekend!

Something from the weekend….and a catch up of the last few weeks!

Hello! Did you miss me?! I’ve certainly missed blogging these last few weeks!

As you may know, a few weeks ago I moved out of London and up to Hitchin in Hertfordshire. It’s been a real adventure, and dead busy…..moving your home and two small businesses is no mean feat I have found, and with a stall to prepare for and some freelance work, it’s been pretty chaotic! Add all the issues we had with the new house, and really I’ve had no time to sit down at my computer!

But I’m aching to get back to it, and have lots of posts lined up to share with you. In the mean time though, I thought I’d catch you up (as requested!) with what’s been going on since I left The Big Smoke…..

On Monday 17th September, I finished packing up our things and hopped in a moving van to leave London. I’d lived there for 12 years, and other than my home town of Stoke on Trent, it was the only place I’ve ever lived. I had the most amazing time there, but the countryside was calling, and so here I now am in Hitchin, which is in fact the boyf’s home town.

The move went pretty well actually, despite the huge amount of ‘stuff’ I own. We had two fabulous moving men, who made easy work of carrying all of our stuff into our new house, and even smiled whilst they did it. I’d been fairly organised, and so most of the boxes ended up in the right rooms, but we opted to spend the first couple of nights at Adam’s parents’ house around the corner, mainly because of the yummy hot meals on offer and because Adam would need to work from there for a few days and starts pretty early!

I spent most of the first week at the house cleaning and organising….unfortunately it was nowhere near ‘liveable’ as it had been empty for a little while and the previous tenants were clearly not so house proud! But with the help of plenty of Flash, Cif, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda, I got the place pretty clean ready for us to move in properly, and so by the third evening we were excited to spend our first night at the house!

We soon found out that we were to share the place with a few house mates…..whilst reading in bed on the first night, something caught the corner of my eye, and in fact I thought it was a mouse! It was actually this rather large spider, whom Adam promptly caught under a glass and deposited outside! We’ve found a few others since (all massive), and the garden is full of the stunning stripey spiders who weave incredible webs over everything.

Needing to get a break from the house sorting, and work in Adam’s case, we’ve taken lots of lovely walks through the town and in the nearby countryside. Just a few minutes walk away are the amazing Priory grounds, where you find a photo opportunity every other step. I’m loving the exercise and fresh air, as well as meeting dog walkers and such (I am getting even more desperate to get one or two of our own as a result!).

By the second week, it was time to start getting back to some work for me, and I cleared just enough space within the boxes in my new studio to get some things done. I’d been commissioned to work on a fashion installation with the UKFT just before leaving London, and so in the run up to the set up last Friday I spent hours at my sewing machine making props and readying my styling kit. On the Thursday evening I thought I’d better give my finger nails some TLC after all the cleaning and working, so they got a nice coat of polish ready for my trip into London the next day.

The installation is at the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation in Westminster, but I took the train to Kings Cross (only half an hour!) and walked the short way to Bloomsbury to the UKFT offices. There, we loaded the van with all the contributions from their members (with me peeking in each box in excitement to see all the treasure!), and then headed to Westminster to set everything up. I had a grand day putting it all together (and will post a bit more about it all soon, but in the mean time there are some sneak peek photos below!), and by 5pm I was back on my way home, and caught the fast train to make it in record time!

The following day we were up bright and early to scoot round the corner to the Riverside Craft and Farmers Market. I’d booked my first ever non-London stall there, and was super excited (and a little nervous) to see how my stuff would be received by the locals! It was also my first outdoor stall, although I was provided with a nice gazebo which gave me stacks of space and allowed me to put all my stock out for the first time. I’d been busily making some new brooches and pendants with a local theme, as so many of my things have a London vibe and I wanted to fit in right away!

It was a grand day of selling, chatting, networking and drinking lots of tea from a flask. The stall is only a few minutes from home, which meant Adam could nip back to bring me blankets and hot water bottles! We had lots of visits too, from friends and friends of friends, and we were all packed up and home by half four too!

I’ve booked onto the next few markets, which are in Hitchin on the last Saturday of the month…..I’ll also be at the Hertford Corn Exchange on the 20th October, and in the market square in Hitchin on the 9th December for the Christmas Gala!

On the Sunday, we were lucky enough to be able to get onto one of the occasional local history walks. Hitchin’s history dates back to the 7th Century, and the town is full of remarkable stories and evidence of its past. The house we moved into is Victorian, and still has its servants bell pulls and cold room, but it is actually relatively young for Hitchin, as there are Georgian and even Elizabethan properties still standing here. The walk showed us some of the highlights, and opened our eyes to some of the treasures in Hitchin’s architecture. I can’t wait to learn more….and to go on the local bat and ghost walks soon!

Hitchin also boasts some very old independent businesses, so I have been discovering places like the wonderful Brookers (a proper old fashioned hardware shop), and Hawkins (a department store who actually employ a proper town crier!) as well as buying up lots from the flea markets, car boot sales, antiques market and charity shops. Whilst I’d love to keep all my treasures, lots of them will actually be polished up and listed on my Etsy shop, so look out for an update on that!

As part of our historical eduction, we’ve been exploring some of our local pubs, purely for research you understand. The Coopers Arms is notable for its incredible Tudor fireplace, as well as a room upstairs recently uncovered by the landlord, which had been hidden by a wardrobe for over 100 years! Our favourite so far though, also happens to be our nearest….. The Half Moon has won awards from CAMRA and serves amazing guest ales, local ciders and yummy food. They also have a pub dog, and lots of countryside walkers like to pop in, with lots of them bringing their dogs!

I was rather pleased that our arrival coincided with sloe picking time. We went out last week to find some locally and came back with almost two kilos, which are now in the freezer waiting to go into gin! I also want to go and harvest the last few brambles, elder berries and rosehips to make jams, wines and schnapps with!

Part of the joy of moving to Adam’s home town, is that we are so close to his parents’ dogs. Piper and Newton soon learned the way to our new house, and understood that we were going to see them more often…..and of course where the biscuit tin we got for them is kept! Newton has been loving playing in our garden with various tennis balls, footballs and shuttlecocks that have ended up there (as well as exploring the wilder parts!)….whilst Piper has been my little un-packing helper, getting excited with each box opened and every treasure unwrapped!

In fact, they seem quite at home here now on their visits, and we’ve had to keep an eye on Piper who wants so very much to spend all day on our lovely new sofas! We’ve had to barricade the living room door when she’s been here, although that didn’t stop her from finding the only made up bed to lie on last week! Having been missing for a few minutes, I searched the house for her, only to find she’d made her way to our bedroom (there are four, so I’m not sure if she inspected them all for a suitable bed!) and was snuggled up on my best sheets. You’ve got to admire her intelligence and determination though.

One thing I have managed to make time for is lots of cooking and baking. We’ve had some really yummy meals over the last few weeks, and had Adam’s parents over as our first guests to yum up a cottage pie, as well as Hannah over for a late lunch of goats cheese and red onion tarts. I’ve been going to the market for lovely fresh fruit and veg, and making up some delicious soups for hearty warm lunches. Adam had been fancying a kedgeree since I had one at the Wolsey for my birthday breakfast, so I made one for him last week with great success….I’ll share the recipe soon hopefully.

To add to the cooking excitement, I’ve been able to forage a few things from our garden as well as the sloes from a nearby obliging field. We have a wonderful and huge bay tree in the garden, which has provided us with fresh leaves for pie, soups, the kedgeree and my Christmas mince meat. We also have elder berries out there (can’t wait til next year for the flowers so we can make Champagne!), as well as brambles and medlars which I will make into jam.

In fact, we have enough room too that I can start growing some of our own veg soon, and Adam’s mum has been busy working the garden to smarten and pretty it up. I’ve spent a little while out there too, mainly digging up some of the wild cyclamen from around the trees to save it from ivy. I love their pretty little pink blades of petals, and was overjoyed to find so many growing right down our wooded garden….. I’ve replanted some in the flower beds (as well as lots of bulbs for spring), some in pots and some around the other trees.

This Friday was a frenzy of baking and readying for Christmas, as I made three Christmas Cakes, the Christmas Mince Meat and for the first time, a Christmas Pudding! The house still smells all Christmassy now, and so I’m very much in the mood already! I’m most excited that we now have space for a proper sized Christmas tree again and can’t wait to go to the market to pick one!

Despite being so excited to be in our new home out of London, we’ve been delighted to find how quick and easy it is to pop into London. The trains take as little as 20 minutes from Kings Cross, and we made it to a recent wedding in Richmond in less time than some people who live in London!

We were most impressed with our journey to the Union Chapel in Islington last night though, which took us under an hour from door to door. We’ve been there a couple of times before, last Christmas to see the Puppini Sisters with friends Claire and Matthew, and first to see Andy McKee with friends Matthew and Siobhan. We enjoyed the latter so much that we bought tickets to see the talented Mr McKee again last night, and had a most amazing time seeing him, the legendary Preston Reed and the phenomenal Jon Gomm.

As we start to get the place more tidy and presentable, I’m getting excited to welcome our friends here. We’ve set a date for our house warming party, which will also be a bit of a festive celebration. I’ve not been able to host my traditional Christmas party for a couple of years, because I’ve been so busy with December parties at work. So I am incredibly keen to get planning for Christmas and visits and just enjoying a gorgeous new home!

And that’s the scoop! As I mentioned, I’ve got lots of posts lined up to tell you more about our new home, and what is in fact a very new lifestyle for me! Do keep me up to date with the London goings on though….I do miss it still!

Ems xxx