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!

http://static.squarespace.com/static/525d6560e4b0b7b97f0f0787/t/52e93f56e4b0c73c50b2ba75/1391031703257/tumblr_mzxm3qRSD21qagw1eo1_1280.jpg?format=1000w

Image from The Groundworks

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

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

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

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

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

Ems x

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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

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

Blog Every Day in May: 5 Lines

“Introduce yourself or sum yourself up in just 5 lines. Include a photograph that you are proud of.”

My name is Emily, and I’m a blogging, crafting, thrifting treasure hunter and events producer living in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

I’m a little bit into everything, and to say my taste is eclectic would be a serious understatement…..I like to think I can see beauty in everything.

I can’t think of any music that I don’t like, there is certainly no food that I won’t eat (with the exception of Marmite which isn’t really a food), and I just don’t believe that any colours clash.

My greatest loves are my wonderful fiance Adam, my darling lurcher Special Agent Doggie Cooper, weddings, blowing bubbles, the TV Tower in Berlin, blue skies and stationery.

I hate having photos taken of me, but I love to take photos of pretty much anything else…. especially road works, buildings that other people think are ugly, and enchanted places where fairies probably live.

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Our secret garden, St Dunstans in the East, near to where we used to live in London. Taken with my Diana analogue camera with 120mm colour negative slide film.

Something from the weekend…. Time Banking, Singin’ in the Rain and welcoming a new arrival

Well that was an eventful weekend! Whilst we knew we had a bit going on, it turned out much busier than we’d planned, but all the more fun for it!

On Friday evening we went for a somewhat impromptu meal out…. some old friends of Adam’s family  had come over from Seattle and so a big bunch of us met up for a curry and catch up. It was great to meet such lovely people and to natter the evening away over a yummy meal! It was home fairly early though as I had to be up quite early for work on Saturday….

I’ve been working with North Herts Centre for Voluntary Service for a couple of months now, helping out with their events programme. On Saturday we launched the new Stevenage Time Bank at an event to introduce the concept to the local community. Time Banking is a great way to volunteer….it’s free to join and you can give as much time as you like, and totally flexibly, then you get an hour back to spend how you like for every hour you give! It’s a fantastic way to build communities, and has been working really well in North Herts for a while now….people might give an hour a week walking someone’s dog, then spend their saved up hours on getting help fixing up their garden for example. The event had a great turn out, including the Mayor of Stevenage who was very positive about the project. We signed up a good few new members and got lots of people thinking about how they can get involved.

At the Stevenage Time Bank Launch

Shortly after my return home from the event I had a call from the local Greyhound Rescue who we’d recently fostered for…. as you may remember we took on a gorgeous pup called Cooper as a foster hound, but then I got so upset after we found him a ‘forever home’ that we decided we’d just have to adopt rather than foster! We’ve been looking for the perfect pooch since, and were due to meet a couple of girl greyhounds on Sunday morning, but when our homing officer (Cheryl) called on Saturday she dropped a bit of a bombshell! It turns out that Cooper’s new home hadn’t worked out, so he was coming back to the Rescue and Cheryl wanted to give us first refusal to either foster him again or adopt him!

Apparently he’d been a bit too playful with his new home’s existing greyhound, and wasn’t reading her signals to back off, so she would snap at him, which was worrying his new owners. So, we had a tricky decision to make quite fast, whether to take Cooper back and give him all the training he needs to be able to socialise better, or go ahead and meet the girls on Sunday morning. I was convinced it was fate….that timing-wise he had just become available again as we were looking to adopt our forever hound….so we decided to have Cooper back (on a foster basis to begin with and see how he gets on, then hopefuly adopt him) and I began to get excited about his arrival!

We made our way into London on Saturday evening, as we’d booked tickets to the screening of Singin’ in the Rain at the Royal Albert Hall as a birthday gift for Adam’s Mum. Adam had found and booked a meal at a little Moroccan restaurant near the Hall at South Kensington, so we made our way there first and were delighted to find the wonderfully quaint Cous Cous Darna. We were served the most delicious meal, with excellent service and in wonderful surroundings…. Adam and I often feel short-changed when ordering vegetarian meals, but our Vegetarian Tagine and Vegetable Cous Cous were amazing, as was the Moroccan wine we had along side, and the Moroccan mint and orange blossom tea we had in lieu of pudding (too stuffed!).

Zinc table top at Cous Cous Darna

Amazing Vegetable Tagine at Cous Cous Darna

After the meal, we took the walk along to the Royal Albert Hall…I never fail to be impressed by the stunning building as we approach! The performance was actually a 60th Anniversary screening of the newly re-mastered film ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra conducted by Neil Thomson. The score has been painstakingly pieced back together by John Wilson, who was commissioned by MGM to reconstruct the lost orchestrations of all their major musicals including High Society, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon and An American in Paris.

The ever-impressive Royal Albert Hall

The result was just phenomenal, as Wilson had completely brought back to life the film’s iconic soundtrack, which was played live against the re-mastered film on the big screen with the original vocals and dialog intact.The evening was introduced by Patricia Ward Kelly, wife of the film’s star Gene Kelly….we were all laughing and also brought to tears by her lovely introduction, as she regaled us with amusing stories from the film-making, quashed rumors, and told us how much she wished Gene was there to see what we were about to experience. I sobbed in fact through most of the film….it was just magical to hear the score performed live alongside the film. The event was a special two-night only anniversary celebration, but I’d very much recommend your seeing it if it’s ever done again.

The big screen!

On Sunday morning we had what was perhaps our last lie in! We heard in the morning that Cheryl was collecting Cooper at lunch time, so he would be with us by the early afternoon! I began beavering away to get the house ready for him…hiding cleaning products and plumping up the dog beds! Then at about 2pm he arrived!

Arthur waiting for Cooper’s return!

Cheryl says that he clearly remembered the house, as she pretended to walk past but he pushed his way through the gate, and his tail wagged madly as he came up to the front door! He quickly settled back in, and nestled into his bed (his favourite place, second only to the sofa!). I took him into the garden for a bit, but he was most happy when we all snuggled up on the sofa, where I read one of Cesar Milan’s books about puppy training.

It was a bit of a mission to get him outside into the snowy cold for his afternoon walk, but he was very well behaved whilst out and did us proud as we met other dogs out walking. Once home, he got a visit from his Grandma Liz (!), Adam’s Mum, and she cooked dinner for us before having a nice long cuddle with him back on the sofa. Cooper was sorry to see her go back home to her own dogs Newton and Piper, but he’ll get to meet them again soon anyway.

Contented hound

Adam and I spent the rest of the evening slobbing on the sofa, with a very content hound curled up next to us! We started to watch The 10th Kingdom, which I’m yet to really buy into….Adam says I have to give it time, but at the minute I’m struggling!

Bed time was pretty successful, and Cooper soon remembered our routine and settled down nicely on his bed without trespassing on our own bed! And so I went to sleep very content indeed after a fun-packed weekend, and with our new family member at home too!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend too!

Ems x

The end of the year as we know it….. 2012 in review

With Christmas over, I’m feeling rather blue and sulky. I can’t believe it’s been and gone again already….why must it go so fast?!

And it’s not just the festive season that flashed by….it’s been a super busy year, and has flown by as a result! I’ve experienced, accomplished and learned lots this year, and all-in-all it’s been a bally good one! So here’s a little round up of what happened in my 2012……

  • Well I gave up my job for one! Having been working in weddings and events for six years, I decided to take a break for a while in order to spend more time being creative and to work freelance. It was a bit scary but has been such great fun!
  • With more time on my hands I have settled down to work on lots of the crafting projects I’d wanted to do for ages, and have set up my own online shops, hosted stalls at craft markets, and begun stocking my things in local shops. The feedback has been so wonderful and I’m looking forward to developing my little brand more in the new year!
  • Now that I can work from home mostly, and Adam can too, we decided to move out of London this Autumn to wonderful Hitchin in Hertfordshire. I’ve loved everything about our move….our amazing new house, my own studio, and being away from the craziness of central London! I still miss lots about London, but it’s so close that I feel I have the best of both worlds!
  • I’ve become rather obsessed with thrifting, nail polish, the colour yellow, bubble tea, making soup, gin, and properly brewed coffee. I’ve also taken on new hobbies in the shape of lino printing and cross stitch!
  • I’ve taken part in a disposable camera swap, an analogue photography workshop, been to press events, curated a fashion display, met fellow bloggers, and been ‘spotted’ by a reader….my life is nothing if not varied these days, which is exactly how I like it!
  • We enjoyed an incredible summer in London, with the Jubilee, the Olympics and the London 2012 Festivals. It was the perfect summer to really embrace living in London, and I have so many wonderful memories of fun times had!
  • I’ve explored secret supper clubs, pop up bars and restaurants, lots of theatre, a summer camp, amazing exhibitions, a floating market and a chilli festival…..it certainly was a year to get out and enjoy things!
  • I attended the weddings of several dear friends, and contributed in small ways to some of them too. As a self confessed wedding-obsessive I have, of course, delighted in seeing my loved ones tie the knot….and can’t wait for the next round of nuptials next year!
  • We started Christmas early with a holiday to the super-festive Vienna. I totally fell in love with the city and its stunning Christmas Markets…..I can’t wait to go back!
  • We hosted our very first Christmas together here in our new home, with great success. The house looks super with all its Christmas decorations, and I have loved all the cooking and hosting!
  • I enrolled in Weight Watchers, and have lost over a stone since July. In fact, just before Christmas I was less than a pound away from my target weight…..although I am a few pounds away again after all the festive gluttony! It’s been great to live somewhere we can take lovely lunch time and early evening strolls, so that I can stay fit without having to head to the gym or go on a crash diet!
  • There’s also the small matter of my turning 30! I celebrated very well (and for weeks on end!) with a brilliant picnic, breakfast at the Wolseley, and a Fashionista afternoon tea at the Berkley….amongst other adventures! Being 30 has been pretty cool actually!
  • The most obvious thing is my blog right here though! I’ve started posting much more regularly this year, held my first give-away and written my first guest posts, as well as having people guest post here for the first time too. It’s been such a great adventure and I’m looking forward to developing my site in the new year!

I hope you all had a splendid 2012, and have an even better 2013!

Ems x

Something from the weekend…..rum, Sunday roast and pottering

Well, after writing about all the things going on in my new ‘hood last week, I realised that I was in fact all booked for this weekend just gone! Still, it’s good to have a list of goings on for when I next get a free day, and I did have a fun packed weekend all the same!

On Saturday, I went for the first time to the Rumfest Experience. I was super excited to try lots of new rums, and learn more about the different types and ways of production, as well as to spend the day with the lovely Hannah, Claire, Matt, Martin and Adam(s). We set out a little early and grabbed a big fry-up breakfast on the way to fill our tummies, then headed for the Excel Centre over in the Docklands. It was a lovely journey on the DLR (I LOVE the DLR!) and great to see over to Greenwich and the new cable cars and things.

Once inside the exhibition centre though it got a bit too busy for my liking! It was pretty tricky in fact to sample many of the rums and there wasn’t really a lot of scope to chat to the different brands as I’d hoped, just because the place was so rammed! Anyway, I’ll save my negative feedback for a letter to the organisers (I did promise myself I’d stick to the positives on my blog!), but I will at least share my favourite rums with you….

The first brand we tried was probably actually my favourite….we tried Centenario‘s 20 year old, 25 year old and 30 year old rums, and all were divine! The 20 year old is pretty affordable too at around £40, although you will have to import it….. I’d choose the 30 year old though if money were no object, but at $150 I think it’s unlikely I’ll be buying some for at home!

We came away with another of our favourites, the St Nicholas Abbey White Rum. Adam’s not really into white rums usually, and I mainly stick to dark and spiced rums, but this one is just incredible! It’s made in Barbados on a very small scale and tastes of holidays and sunshine (probably the banana and coconut does that!). I think it’s a steal at £35.

We also bought a bottle of Old Grog Rum which I was super impressed with too…. it’s another bargain I think for £30, and I’m pleased we got hold of some whilst we could as it’s not sold widely in the UK at all (fingers crossed for them that they get a big buyer on board as a result of Rumfest!).

Lastly, I went a little bit weak at the knees from the amazing liqueur made my Ron Abuelo. Apart from its amazing packaging (the bottle is shaped like a flamenco dancer and the lid is a mini straw hat!), it tastes absolutely divine! I can totally imagine sipping it at Christmas time (it was beautifully orangey with a little spice), or any time it’s cold outside!

On Sunday morning, we did the usual quick trip around the Hitchin Market Car Boot Sale. And, as usual, we couldn’t bear to leave without a bargain or two and came home with some darling little globe bookends and a handy little storage rack for my studio. Then it was to the kitchen where I prepared our first Sunday roast in the new house, ready for Adam’s Dad coming round for lunch. We had roast pork loin with all the trimmings….after which we were all rather sleepy!

We had a sugar boost in the afternoon though as our friend Hannah visited for a cup of tea and a slice of cherry pie, then it was a bit more sorting around the house….especially trying to work out where all our artwork will go. After earning a rest though, we finished the day watching North By North West (I love Carey Grant films on Sundays!), during which I did a bit of knitting too before heading up for an early night. Simple Sundays are often the best!

Ems x

Living for the weekend…. introducing my new ‘hood

As this is my first ‘Living for the weekend’ post since my move, I thought I’d dedicate it to my new home county of Hertfordshire. I figure it’ll help me get to know the area better, get an idea of what’s going on, and maybe even give me a chance to find some other local adventurers!

I’ll admit it though, when I started to look for events in my new local area, I honestly thought I’d only find a handful of things to do this weekend, and may have to stretch my search to neighboring Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. No such problem though! As soon as I started snooping about, I came across fun thing after fun thing to do! And in fact, I’m swamped with ideas! There’s such a wonderful range of things going on, and so many of them are right up my alley….how to choose???…..

Saturday

Hitchin Fashion Show

Hitchin Market Square

Saturday 13th October

Free Entry

Many fashion stores from Hitchin will be taking part in the second Hitchin Fashion Show, which takes place in the town square. There’ll be fashions from local high street stores, high end designers and vintage treasures, as well as a chance to see Hitchin’s very own Town Cryer!

 

Chorleywood Community Arts Centre Annual Exhibition and Sale

Saturday 13th October, 10am to 4pm

Free Entry

This annual event is a great opportunity to see examples of members’ work of all kinds, with many exhibits for sale. The day will also include demonstrations of pottery, painting and silk painting throughout the day!

Autumn Trail at Ashridge Estate

Ashridge Estate, near Berkhamsted

Saturday 13th October, 10am to 4pm

Entry from £2
Have halloween-themed spooky fun outdoors with a seasonal Family Trail around the beautiful Ashridge Estate, and answer questions along the way to earn a reward!

A Paper Garden City: Vanessa Stone

Foyer Gallery, Letchworth Arts Centre
Until 31st October, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 3pm
Free entry

A portrait of Letchworth in wonderful designs created in paper cuts  by talented  local artist Vanessa Stone.

Kitty Quiz Night, in aid of Cats Protection Hemel Hempstead & Berkhamsted

Social Centre, Bell Lane, Northchurch HP4 3RD

Saturday 13th October, 7pm for 7.30pm start

£10 per person, including supper!

The Kitty Quiz Night is a remarkably popular event which regularly sells out! Teams are a maximum of 8, and the price includes a fish ‘n’ chips supper or veggie option. Please contact Colin 07507 914625 (daytime) or Vanessa 01442 879974 (evenings) for information and tickets or email vanessachenery@hotmail.com. This is a charity event and all proceeds will go to support the work of Cats Protection in the Dacorum area.

 

Autumn Charity Concert

All Saints Church, Hertford

Saturday 13th October, 7:30pm

Tickets £7

This concert in aid of Isabel Hospice brings together two popular choirs from Hertfordshire, with a varied programme to suit all tastes.

An Autumn Adventure

Brookmans Park

Saturday 13 October, 10.30am to 12.30pm

Free entry

Join the team at Gobions Wood Nature Reserve for a morning of autumnal activities and crafts. Click here to book online or call Susannah on 07876 508034.

Hertford Food and Drink Festival

From October 8th to October 14th

All around the Town Centre

Local businesses, the Town Council and other local organisations are hosting the first Hertford Food and Drink Festival. Expect farmers markets, a special apple day and demonstrations of all kinds!

Jumble Sale Cats Protection Hemel Hempstead & Berkhamsted

Potten End Village Hall

Saturday 13th October, from 11:30 am

Oh boy do I love a good jumble sale….and one to help fund a local cat charity is even better! Expect stacks of books, toys, games, clothes, shoes, bric-a-brac, and household items at bargain prices.

Sunday

Hitchin Sunday Market & Car Boot Sale

Hitchin Market

Every Sunday, 7:30am to 1pm

Free Entry

In addition to the regular weekly markets, Hitchin Markets have recently launched a new venture offering a general market and a car boot sale every Sunday.  Pitches start at just £5.00, but its free to go and browse!

Family Deer Walk

Sunday October 14th, 8am to 10am

Starting at the B4506, end of Monument Drive, Ashridge

Adults £8, Children £6.

It’s an amazing time of year to see deer, as bucks compete for does and this family-based wildlife walk will give you a chance to experience the sights and sounds of the deer rut.  To book call 01442851227.

 

Phew! So much to do!

Ems x

How To on Tuesday: Moving Home

As you know, I recently moved home from a little flat in central London to a much bigger house in Hertfordshire. As well as all my belongings (and I have lots!) there was also the boyf’s things to think about, as well as everything for our two small businesses. So it was no easy thing packing and prepping for our move, and no easier on the move day itself and once settling in. But I think we did make it just about as painless as possible, and I’m pretty pleased with how it all went really.

So, as my ‘how to’ for this week, I thought I’d share some of the ideas I used to make things go as smoothly as possible, in the hope that you’ll find it useful to stow away these bits of information for your next move!

  1. Ordering boxes – As much as it might seem possible to collect up all the boxes you need, I really would recommend buying some. Whilst we did manage to get hold of some from local shops and friends, the problem there is that you have to make do with whatever size you’re given….and that can mean you’re packing things in the wrong order or in the wrong boxes. There are lots of websites that will sell you packing kits designed for homes of all sizes, including the tape and marker pens and whatnot. I’d say it’s best to go with one of these mixed bundles, so you have several box sizes from the start, so you can box up books in smaller ones (so you can actually move them!) and lightweight things in bigger ones. Once we got a big delivery of boxes I felt much easier in packing everything and could really get through it.
  2. Other wrapping materials – Some of the package deals online will give you tissue paper and bubble wrap too. I’d say it’s well worth having some bits and bobs like that, but I actually mainly used things I’d been saving up instead….. Any jiffy bags, bubble wrap, tissue paper, newspaper and plastic carrier bags are worth hoarding in the run up to a move, as all of these work well to wrap things in and pad things out. I also have a big stash of canvas totes which are great for wrapping delicate things in too.
  3. Box labelling – There is nothing more annoying after a move than looking for one little particular thing, and to have to open a dozen boxes to find it. Whilst most boxes can just be labelled by the room they’re going to, I found that detailing the key items in each box in pen on the top was really handy. I wish I’d done it more in fact, as there were rather more ‘misc’ boxes than was helpful!
  4. Colour coding – I’ll admit it, if there’s a chance to colour code something, I’m all over it. But I have to say, my nifty colour coding trick for moving works a treat! To save you and your movers from having to read your scrawl on each box before plonking it in the right room, why not allocate a colour to each room and label your boxes to suit?! For example, I decided the kitchen would be green (because the vegetables live there, which are green, obviously), and so each box destined for the kitchen got a green sticker, and then on the day I stuck a big green sign on the kitchen…..the moving men then just had to chuck all the green labelled boxes in the room with the green label! I did the same for the other rooms, which was especially helpful in the move to a bigger place because it would be hard for the moving men to know which room is which in some cases (when they are empty at least!).
  5. Moving men (and women) – And on the subject of moving men…… I have moved a few times just using friends’ cars or hiring vans, then doing all the lifting myself or with a team of friends bribed by the promise of take out. As I’ve grown older and lazier though, and as my collection of ‘stuff’ has increased, I’ve decided I’d much rather pay some burly young men to do all the lifting for me. For my past two moves I’ve used the Anyvan website to get competitive quotes from local moving firms, and it’s been brilliant both times. You just fill in their online questionnaire to explain how much stuff you’ve got, and what access is like, and then stacks of firms come back with quotes. We got some truly bargainous deals this way, and for the most recent move we had the most perfect moving men you can imagine. Well worth the small spend!
  6. Last minute boxes and bags – You know how it is, you feel all prepared and ready, the van arrives and you start loading it, then you realise there’s a whole cupboard of ‘last minute’ stuff that’s been completely forgotten and you have nothing to pack it in. Having a few stray bits and bobs is inevitable, so I like to keep a small and a large box spare, as well as some big laundry type bags and a few carrier bags or totes. ALL of my spares got used in the last move, so I’m glad I’d thought ahead!
  7. Very Important Box – As well as those last minute bits, there are also the things you know you REALLY want not to lose at the other end. Things like the kettle, tea bags, bedding, scissors, and cleaning products all need to be within easy reach when you arrive to your new place. I like to have a special box for these bits, and make sure it’s easy to spot because it’s a different colour or has ‘THIS ONE’ scribbled all over it with dozens of arrows.
  8. At the other end – Whilst you’ll be all excited to arrive at your new place, and want to start the unpacking frenzy, take the first few minutes to have a really good look around. I’m yet to move into an appropriately clean place, and have found all sorts of issues when moving in. It’s easier to spot stuff before all your boxes are stacked in every room, and if you’re renting and have the agent or landlord there to hand over the keys, it’s worth going through the inventory with them. Things will always come to light later, but before you start unpacking your precious treasures it’s worth checking the place is OK first.
  9. Kitchen and bedroom first, living room last – The temptation to lay out your sofas and scatter them with cushions so you can have that well deserved rest will always be strong. But, as soon as you make your living room all cosy and nice, it’s hard to want to get back up and start working on the rest! Whilst a first night take out is a must for me, I like to get my kitchen sorted first so that I can at least make a cup of tea and throw some cereal in a bowl the next morning. And of course there’s no greater disappointment than making your way to bed after all your hard work, only to find it still needs to be built, the mattress is in another room, and your duvet is nowhere to be seen. So, ensure you at least have everything to hand for bed time, or ideally get it all sorted earlier in the day.
  10. There’s no rush – So now you’re in, and you can live in your new place, sleep there and cook there…..but there are still boxes EVERYWHERE! I find this really stressful, and hate living in amongst the disarray of a move. But, rather than getting all wound up by it (like I did this last time), remind yourself that there is no rush to get your little trinkets out and find homes for all your books etc. The last bit is the most fun bit….making your home. So take your time, move things again and again, and enjoy it.

Ems x

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