Our first month in Otley

Hello! From Yorkshire!

Yes, a month ago today we made the move from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, all the way up to the little market town of Otley in West Yorkshire. It was a horrendous move….we collected so much stuff living in such a big place in Hitchin, especially with all the wedding things. Plus it was our first move with the dogs, who have a lot more luggage than you might expect! Still, they were as good as gold during the move and really did us proud.

Dogs in the car on move day

Are we nearly there yet?

Dogs on moving day

All in!

We’re finally getting sorted in the new place though, and have a place for most things and most things in their place….it has been a great opportunity for some serious sorting though and we’ve had lots to Freecycle, donate to charity shops and box up for the car boot sale. And hopefully the next move will be much easier as it won’t be so far away….we very much intend to stay in Yorkshire as we have so many friends and family here, not to mention the fact that we’ll be able to afford a much nicer house than in pricey Hitchin!

My home studio

My new studio….still a bit of sorting to do but I can work in it at least!

We’d not been to Otley ever before our move day, and hadn’t even seen our new house! With such a busy summer we just couldn’t get the time together to do a proper scout as we usually would, and were lucky enough to have some family and friends view a few places for us. Our dear friend Craig actually came to see this place and said we’d love it….and we do! Thanks Craig!

Otley is a lot like Hitchin really. It’s a market town with lots going on, but also has the advantage of quick and easy access to the countryside. My morning walk with the dogs is just perfect….we’re a few moments away from a playing field which we walk through first, then a little river side park before we get to the gorgeous formal gardens (and playground!) and then wonderful fields for the hounds to race around, as well as lots of places for them to dip into the river….Digby has even had his first proper swim (so proud!)! We’ve seen Kingfishers along the river and I’m told you can see otters if you’re out early enough too….fingers crossed!

Swimming dog in the River Wharfe

Digby taking a swim in the goregous river Wharfe

Being a little more remote we decided we’d finally have to get a car, which means we can explore other places for our walks too. We’ve taken to driving to the stunning Chevin Forest, just two minutes away, for our afternoon walk. The dogs love exploring all the winding paths, and we adore the views from up there. There’s even an ice cream van waiting at the summit, which is a great treat after the climb! The Chevin is actually thought to have been an inspiration for some of Turner’s paintings, and I love having that connection!

The view of Otley from the Chevin Forest

The view of Otley from the Chevin Forest

We’re hoping to explore some of the nearby places too before long….I love Skipton and the Dales which are now very close, and then there’s the Keighley Railway (famous for appearing in the Railway Children!), Bronte country in the pretty village of Haworth, nearby Ilkley and its Darwin Gardens and stunning moorland, plus more of Leeds which I love for food and shopping.

There’s plenty to do in Otley too, and we’ve been enjoying getting to know it. There’s a regular market which I’ve been going to for our fruit and vegetables, plus a monthly Farmer’s market which is just wonderful, and a craft market in the Old Courthouse. There are stacks of tea rooms and plenty of good pubs….all of which we have vowed to try out, although that may take us some time!

Otley Farmers Market

Shopping at Otley Farmers Market

All natural dog treat

Cooper ready for a treat from the Farmers Market!

giant yorkshire pudding filled with chips and gravy

My kinda grub….local ‘delicacy’ of giant yorkshire pudding filled with chips and gravy

Otley Folk Festival

Dancers outside the Court House Project for the Otley Folk Festival

Adam has joined the Otley Camera Club, which is celebrating its 75th year, and we’re hoping to find local dance classes and an archery club too. I’ve been loving all the gorgeous galleries in town, and there’s a Sunday car boot within walking distance, plus several more we can explore in the car. We’re looking forward to some upcoming events as well….there’s a science fair and beer festival very soon and a Victorian fair at Christmas, plus food festivals, arts events and all sorts in the new year. Oh, and we checked out the Vintage Transport Extravaganza too which was super!

Otley Old Grammar School gallery

Art this way, at The Old Grammar School gallery

Ice cream at the Otley car boot sale

Me with my ice cream at the car boot sale. There’s ice cream everywhere here!

Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza

At the Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza

We’re celebrating our first month here with a trip to the wonderful sounding vegetarian restaurant, The Cheerful Chilli, up on the Chevin tomorrow night….it’ll be such a treat to have so much to choose from for a change and I’m looking forward to trying it out! Then it’ll be more exploring for potential places for us to settle down in….the plan is to buy a place within the next year, so we want to get a flavour for where in Yorkshire should get to keep us!

That’s all for now, but I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about our new town soon. Have a lush weekend!

Ems x

Since I saw you last….

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

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

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

Wedding Crafting

Wedding Crafting

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

007 Cooper

007 Cooper

Rock n Roll Digby

Rock n Roll Digby

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

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

Espresso and chocolate crepe at Just Desserts

Espresso and chocolate crepe at Just Desserts

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

Bridal shower garms

Bridal shower garms

Bridal shower balloons

Bridal shower balloons

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

Me and him on our wedding day in Greenwich

Me and him on our wedding day in Greenwich

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

My Husband and a rather yummy cocktail in a tin mug

My Husband and a rather yummy cocktail in a tin mug

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

Waiting for our second flight of three to our honeymoon destination

Waiting for our second flight of three to our honeymoon destination

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

Pretty much my view for most of the holiday

Pretty much my view for most of the holiday

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

The view from our lovely room

The view from our lovely room

Room service breakfast on the morning of one of our excursions

Room service breakfast on the morning of one of our excursions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picnic Pimm's

Picnic Pimm’s

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

Just Desserts crew

Just Desserts crew

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

Birthday breakfast in the garden

Birthday breakfast in the garden

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

Black Horse birthday pudding

Black Horse birthday pudding

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

The hounds discover a Gothic folly

The hounds discover a Gothic folly

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

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

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

The library at Wimpole Hall

The library at Wimpole Hall

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

The Ampthill Antiques Emporium

The Ampthill Antiques Emporium

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

Me in my new scarf at Cupcake and Crumb

Me in my new scarf at Cupcake and Crumb

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

Wedding photo package

Wedding photo package

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

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Exhibitionists!

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

Back to school shoes

Back to school shoes

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

Cooper's first blueberry ice lolly!

Cooper’s first blueberry ice lolly!

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

Late Night Sessions at The Grounworks

Late Night Sessions at The Groundworks

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

Parisian Bridal Shower

Parisian Bridal Shower

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

Hannah in the lavender

Hannah in the lavender

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

Adam mixing with the pros at 69 Colebrooke Row

Adam mixing with the pros at 69 Colebrooke Row

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

Ready to jam

Ready to jam

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

Carnival fun

Carnival fun

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

Bridesmaids on the move

Bridesmaids on the move

Badger wedding cake

Badger wedding cake

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

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

Ems x

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

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