Something from the weekend, and my “Not Cross Bun” recipe

Did you have a lovely Easter break? I certainly did! It was just wonderful to have a four day weekend, especially with the gorgeous weather.

We spent Good Friday baking…..a coconut flour chocolate cake which I’ll share with you later in the week, and also some yummy ‘Not Cross Buns’ (my version of Hot Cross Buns!). I was rather pleased with them and thought I’d share the recipe with you, as they’re too delicious just to have around Easter!

Not Cross Buns (Hot Cross Bun) recipe by Under a Glass Sky

Ingredients:

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 250g plain white flour (we used gluten free)
  • 125ml warm water
  • 125ml warm organic semi-skimmed milk
  • 5g powdered dried yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 1 medium free-range egg
  • 50g organic butter
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp orange liqueur (or orange juice for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • Syrup for glazing (we used the syrup from a jar of stem ginger, but golden, maple syrup or even honey are fine too)

To Make:

  1. The night before you want to bake, pop the fruit in a shallow bowl with the orange liqueur or juice and soak overnight
  2. Ideally in a food mixer, combine the flour, water, milk, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl and fit the dough hook. Add the egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough. You can of course do this by hand, although it will be a bit more work!
  3. Add the dried fruit and spice, then knead on low speed until well mixed. Again, you can do this by hand, but flour your hands as the mixture will be sticky!
  4. Now cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
  5. Next, ‘knock back’ the risen dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into rounds and dust with flour, placing on a floured baking tray before covering again with cling film and leave to prove for about half an hour. You can now pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 so it’s ready when your buns need to go in.
  6. Once ready, bake the buns in the pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool. You can brush them as they cool with the syrup to create a nice golden-glazed finish.
  7. Serve them warm if you like, or split and toast before smothering in butter!

Not Cross Buns (Hot Cross Bun) recipe by Under a Glass Sky

 

On Saturday we took the short trip into Harrogate with some dear friends. We first visited Baltzersen’s cafe which is on Oxford Street. It prides itself in its offering the best Yorkshire-sourced ingredients prepared with Scandinavian inspiration. The space itself is charmingly Scandic, with simple furnishings and quirky trimmings. I ordered the Lapskaus, a Norwegian lentil and root vegetable stew, which was super. Adam went for the soup of the day, and our friends chose from the sandwich menu, all of it looking yummy.

After that we explored the wonderful Royal Pump Room Museum which exhibits the history of the spa town, as well as some other interesting bits and pieces….there’s currently a small collection of small temporary exhibitions, including ‘The Clothes We Wore’, ‘Inside the Victorian Jewellery Box’, and ‘A Town At War’. It’s well worth a visit (only £4 entry for adults) although you can sadly no longer taste the healing waters that made the town what it is, due to health and safety precautions!

Finally we made the necessary pilgrimage to Betty’s Tea Rooms for coffee and cake. Well, in my case Champagne and cake! We took a lovely table in the Montpelier Bar (which I love as it reminds me of the cafes in Vienna, and you don’t have to queue so long as for the afternoon tea rooms!) and I decided to make the most of it by ordering a Moutard Rose (one of my all time favourite Champagnes) as well as the miniature patisserie selection. It was all delicious as usual and our friends enjoyed their first visit there too!

That evening we all ordered a take out back at our place and Adam made us a few cocktails whilst we watched a Liam Neeson action/thriller film I forget the name of!

Harrogate: Betty's, The Royal Pump Room, Baltzersen's, by Under a Glass Sky

On Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast with our house guests, then went for a lovely walk up on Baildon Moor, which overlooks the village we’re moving to in the next few months. It was such a glorious day and we became even more excited about the impending move….not least on Adam’s part because there are ice cream vans stationed at the car parks there!

Baildon Moor, by Under a Glass Sky

On Monday we drove up into North Yorkshire to meet more dear friends in the pretty village of Leyburn. We had a very nice pub lunch then went on a charming five mile walk to a nearby waterfall. We couldn’t believe the weather (I had taken my big insulated coat, which got left behind in the car!) and were all very eager to get a cup of tea and some cake back in the village at the end!

Leyburn, by Under a Glass Sky

On the way home we stopped off at Brymor, which is a wonderful dairy and ice cream cafe not far from Middleham. I opted for a sugar cone filled with raspberry and pineapple ice creams, which were just divine! Adam chose the elderflower and St Clements flavours which were delicious too. The perfect way to end a splendid weekend!

Ems x

 

Advertisements

Tuesday Tutorial: Purple Glitter Jewellery for Willow Foundation

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to attend a friend’s “Purple Party” to help raise funds for Willow Foundation*. Clare is running the London Marathon for the charity this year, and so put together the brilliant themed party to add to her fundraising target. There were purple cocktails, purple food, a purple photo booth and the whole place was decked out in purple, including the guests!

Being a bit low on purple things to wear myself, I decided to make some purple glittery treasures, with extra for Clare to sell on the night. And because I know everyone loves glitter (not to mention with Half Term in full swing!) I thought I’d share a little tutorial for how to make them. The batch I made took a while because there were so many, but one or two would be very quick to make, and super easy too! You can buy everything you need easily and inexpensively at a craft shop or online.

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

You Will Need:

  • Fine purple glitter (or another colour, if you must)
  • Original Mod Podge
  • A flat ended brush (about 10mm to 15mm wide)
  • A mixing pot (a yogurt pot or take out tub is perfect, especially if it has a lid)
  • An old teaspoon
  • Wooden laser cut shapes (I used 20mm and 30mm hearts, and 40mm stars)
  • Brooch backs and / or stick on pendant bails
  • E6000 glue

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

How To:

1. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of glitter into your mixing pot (if you’re making a big batch just double this, and keep making fresh batches as you go, so none is wasted)

2. Add about the same amount of Mod Podge and mix them well with the spoon (then wash the spoon!)

3. Choose which side of your wooden shape you want to paint (there are often marks from the laser cutting on one side, so paint onto that as you won’t see it when you’re finished)

4. Paint a thin layer of the glittery glue onto your shape….best not to use too much at a time so that you don’t spill over the edges and it stays neat

5. Wait for that to dry and then paint on another thin coat

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

6. Keep adding thin coats once the last is dry to build up the coverage….as with most painting projects, it’s better to do lots of thin coats than one or two thick ones (if your mixing pot has a lid you can cover your mixture whilst you wait for drying, so that it stays fresh)

7. I applied four or five coats to mine, and if you decide to make a big batch you can of course apply each coat to all of them, and by the time you’ve done the last, the first one will be dry and ready for the next

8. Once you’re happy with the coverage, leave until completely dry before flipping over ready for the backing

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

9. If you’re using a brooch back, check it works ok before using it, then blob some E6000 onto the flat side of the brooch back and press it firmly onto the back of your wooden shape

10. If you’re making a pendant, blob the E6000 onto the flat pad of the bail and carefully press it onto the back of your shape….before it dries turn it over to make sure it’s on straight

11. Leave for 24 hours to dry well before adding a chain if you’ve made a pendant, or before proudly pinning your brooch onto your clothes!

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

These would make great party favours for a Bridal Shower or Hen Party I think, or for children’s parties (although take care with brooch pins!)….or of course you could make some to raise funds for charity too!

Purple glitter jewellery tutorial

Ems x

Willow is the only national charity working with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable Special Days. These Special Days enable them and their families to reconnect and refocus on each other while enjoying an activity of their choosing. A day for them, a day about them and a day that will create memories they will all treasure forever.

Something from the weekend: Exploring, macaroons and autumn leaves

This weekend saw some more adventuring for us….we decided to check out nearby Harrogate to see what it has to offer, and also look at some potential areas for us to live. It took us just shy of half an hour to drive there this Saturday, and there are LOTS of lovely shops I’m happy to have nearby (but not TOO nearby!). We wandered around the town centre for a while, I made a stop off at M&S (in need of new undies!) and we browsed some of the other shops, including a charity shop where I found a lush Jaeger coat for just £15! I think Harrogate is a good contender to keep us!

Me wearing Boden at the Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate

We made a mental note to come back and explore the Royal Pump Room Museum and Turkish Baths soon, and then finished up at Bettys….that seeming the right thing to do on our first trip to Harrogate! We actually have a Bettys Tea Room just fifteen minutes away from where we live in Ilkley, but Harrogate is where it all started and so we opted to have lunch in the gorgeous Montpellier Bar there.

Adam at the Montpellier Bar at Bettys Tea Rooms in Harrogate

First we ordered two of their Viennese style coffees, which are made with their own roasted beans, steamed milk, honey, cinnamon and fresh whipped cream….absolutely delicious! Then we chose the soup of the day (sweet potato) which came with huge hunks of crusty home baked bread, and the smoked salmon which was absolutely divine on the home baked wholemeal bread. The ambience and service was just wonderful, and very much reminded us of beloved cafes in Europe. We’ll be back!

Coffee Vienna at Bettys Tea Rooms in Harrogate

Before leaving I just had to pop into the shop, where I bought a pretty box full of macaroons and a Yorkshire Rarebit Scone to take home….we scoffed them all with a brew as we relaxed in the afternoon!

Macaroons from Bettys Tea Rooms in Harrogate

Macaroons from Bettys Tea Rooms in Harrogate

On Sunday we drove just ten minutes away to Golden Acre Park to walk the dogs and meet up with some local friends. It’s a beautiful park anyway, but with all the autumnal colours bursting forth it was all extra special! We wandered all round the park before taking a pit stop at the little cafe for hot chocolates and red velvet cake….well, we had worked up our appetite by then!

Cooper the lurcher in Golden Acre Park in Leeds

Hunter wellies standing in autumn leaves

Gold and red leaves in Autumn at Golden Acre Park in Leeds

The view from the open air cafe at Golden Acre Park in Leeds

On the way back to the car we took a turn around the lake and the little bit of remaining model railway…the park had been a very early theme park in its Victorian hay day…I wish I could have seen it in all its glory!

The old model railway at Golden Acre Park in Leeds

The lake at Golden Acre Park in Leeds

In the afternoon we did some more exploring, taking a drive around some more of the areas we’ve been looking at houses in. Then we walked at the beautiful tarn near Adam’s parents’ new house, popping in to say hello to them on the way back. I’m loving walking at the moment (at least when it’s dry!)…the trees look stunning against the blue skies, and there’s something about this time of year that makes me want to be outside, despite the chill.

Hope you’re enjoying Autumn and had a great weekend too!

Ems x

Yorkshire Photo Walks: Taster session at Gallows Hill Nature Park, Otley

Last Saturday, despite the drizzle and chill, I went along to join in on a local photo walk. Adam had heard about it at camera club when Tom came along to tell everyone about his Yorkshire Photo Walks. We signed up right away and headed just down the road to Gallows Hill Nature Park where Tom was hosting a free introductory walk to start the season off.

It was a good excuse to explore the park, which it turns out is just across the river from where I walk the dogs most mornings. It’s a beautiful place, even when it’s grey and wet. Tom filled us in on how the walks work and then dished out a little piece of paper to each of us, on which was written a theme for us to base our photos on. I got ‘fading summer’ as a title for my photos, and so off I set!

Tom came around to each of us as we took photos, to find out more about us and to offer help. This free taster session was just an hour long, but usually they’re two hours and at the end everyone goes to the pub to review the shots they’ve captured. There’s a Flickr group too where everyone can see what other people have been up to during the walks.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of my photos from the walk. I enjoyed spending a whole hour just trying things out and playing with my camera (it’s a Canon G12 in case you’re interested!), and I’m quite pleased with the results.

Snail on a branch, Otley, YorkshireFallen golden leaf in nettles, Otley, Yorkshire Double exposure trick with depth of field, Otley, Yorkshire Curly autumn leaf, Otley, Yorkshire Golden vine leaf, Otley, Yorkshire Wet and speckled leaves, Otley, Yorkshire A hiding crocodile lead, Otley, Yorkshire Red firework autumn fall foliage Autumn fall seeds on dried Queen Anne Lace Golden autumn fall leaf in green foliage Sycamore glider seeds, autumn, fall Like a perching dragonfly, sycamore seeds Gnarly dried leaves, autumn, fall Vacated bird nest

Tom runs regular photos walks right across beautiful Yorkshire….there are night time walks and even a full weekend of walks you can join in on too. Each walk is usually about £15 and you can see the full list of those coming up here. You don’t need any special equipment for most of the walks….I just took along my compact camera (and iPhone!) but of course there were people there with DSLRs and tripods and whatnot. I’ll be tempted to take along a film camera on a sunny day. There are some walks just for SLR users, but everything is set up to cater for all different abilities and the people there who have been to lots of the walks all rave about what a great teacher Tom is.

I’ll look forward to updating you when I’ve been on my next Yorkshire Photo Walk!

Ems x

 

Something from the weekend: Mostly food

Despite still having lots to do as we settle into the house, we’ve been enjoying spending our weekends exploring our new locale….especially with the new added benefit of a car!

Adam finished work at lunch time on Friday as he had some time to take in lieu, so we drove to nearby Ilkley to walk the dogs down the river and scope out all that the town centre has to offer. We found lots of lovely shops, The Veggie cafe that we’re dying to try out, and our nearest Betty’s Tea Rooms which I hope to visit before long!

On Saturday we took an early morning walk on the gorgeous Otley Chevin, the foresty hill that overlooks the town. The dogs love it up there as there is lots to sniff and explore, and the views are just stunning on a gorgeous day like Saturday.

Lurcher at Otley Chevin

Cooper posing at the Chevin

After breakfast we drove to Kirkstall Abbey to meet my Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law and our little niece Clementine. There’s a monthly Deli Market there with dozens of wonderful food and drink stalls set up inside the beautiful ruins of the abbey. We did a circuit to see what we might like, then bought up lots of goodies….for our lunch we bought a yummy free range scotch egg and incredibly delicious pork and gammon pie from The Blue Pig (as well as some of their sausages for another day), plus some gruyere and rosemary straws. There was a huge amount of sweet stuff to choose from, and we came away with a Chai Spiced flapjack from Oat Cuisine (top prize for their punderful name!), a Vegan Columbian Coffee Tiffin from That Old Chestnut, fudge courtesy of Aunty Emily’s (another great name!), and our first ever Canadian Nanaimo bar from Fayre by Alley. We were also in need of marmalade, so we bought some amazing Orange and Cardamon Marmalade from Hummingbird Preserves. The abbey is well worth a visit in its own right, and I’m sure we’ll be back with our cameras…..and we’ll be no strangers to the Deli Market too I’d imagine!

Scoffing a scotch egg at Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market

Scoffing a scotch egg at Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market

We popped to Adam’s Brother’s for a cup of tea and niece cuddles, plus some fussing of their two gorgeous Staffies. Then we drove to nearby Arthington to look at a house for sale….we’re not strictly ready to move yet having only just arrived, but I’ve not stopped thinking about this place since Adam found it on Right Move and he eventually decided that the only way to shut me up was to take a look! I’m glad we did….it’s good practise for when we start viewing properly….but in reality it wasn’t quite the dream home I’d thought it was. We shall keep on looking though!

It being a month since we’ve moved here, we decided to celebrate with a meal out at a local vegetarian restaurant on Saturday night, then it was an early night for us after a busy day!

On Sunday we had our friends Craig and Shelley over for morning coffee….we’re delighted to be living so near to them now, and that we’ll get to see them more often. After a quick catch up we all walked to the Designer Craft Fair in the Otley Courthouse to peruse the pretty things, then made our way to the Farmers’ Market in the square. As usual there was lots to tempt us and we came away with full bags….Mornington House‘s scrumptious jams (strawberry, raspberry and damson), Butterscotch and Rocky Road slices from the amazing Yummy Yank, half a dozen huge free range duck eggs and a bun filled with delicious free range hog roast and stuffing from Happy Hogs to bring home for lunch.

Scrummy Rocky Road from The Yummy Yank

Scrummy Rocky Road from The Yummy Yank

After scoffing, Craig and Shelley headed home for some sort of sporting race or match or something, then shortly afterwards Adam’s Dad arrived as he’ll be staying with us this week. He and Adam’s Mum are also making the move up from Hitchin later this week (he’s meeting with builders and things whilst Liz sorts out the movers) and we drove over to their new place to have a little look around the nearby High Street in the afternoon.

I cooked up a roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings for supper, followed by a fruit crumble and custard. The perfect way to end a lovely weekend!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too!

Ems x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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!

https://i1.wp.com/static.squarespace.com/static/525d6560e4b0b7b97f0f0787/t/52e93f56e4b0c73c50b2ba75/1391031703257/tumblr_mzxm3qRSD21qagw1eo1_1280.jpg

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

Yarn Bomb!

1005999_549850375076324_1686045488_n

When I was planning our move out of London to Hitchin, one of the things I looked forward to the most was the better sense of community. So when a friend told me about the local Time Bank scheme, I joined up before we’d even packed!

The Time Bank is a community skills exchange which operates across North Herts and recently launched in Stevenage and Buntingford too. The scheme enables members to give time to help local people, then ‘bank’ the hours they’ve given so you can exchange them for support when you might need help or want to learn a new skill. So for example, I might do an hour’s sewing for another member, then I get to bank that hour to use later, say when I need some DIY done around the house. I love the concept, as it so effectively brings the community together, helping you meet new people and share your skills. There are all kinds of people involved from all walks of life and at all ages….there are people who offer help with form-filling, crafts, gardening, IT skills, shopping and all sorts.

The Time Bank also has two very popular knitting groups, who meet every week to work on projects, share tips and just have a good chat. So, when Time Banker Carmen got in touch with an idea to get everyone involved in a big project to help promote awareness of the group, I was super excited!

Carmen’s idea was to stage a yarn bombing somewhere in Letchworth, to show how the Time Bank brings people together and benefits the local area. ‘Guerrilla knitting’ or ‘yarn bombing’ is a form of street art, whereby colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn are used to cover and transform trees, community sculptures and street furniture.

After speaking to the council and Heritage Foundation, we managed to get permission to cover the ‘Paradise Is’ sculpture in knitting and crochet. Carmen then rallied around, as well as lots of other Time Bankers and local knitters, together giving a whopping 300 hours to get the knitted and crocheted panels and details ready for the big day.

993303_549851308409564_230668145_n

We were so delighted with how many people wanted to take part, with people learning to knit for the first time and also members giving up their time and sharing their other crafty skills to help sew it all together. On the morning of the ‘bombing’ hours were spent carefully attaching the panels and other decorations to the sculpture  to ensure it wasn’t damaged and that it was all secure. I couldn’t believe how intricately designed it all was, with beautiful little details to represent all the elements of Time Banking and volunteering, such as the gardening project, photography and baking.

Here are a few of my favourite bits….

46299_549851208409574_1684418494_n

164220_549849825076379_819306358_n

1014162_549849851743043_1326816439_n

The Time Bank scheme, run by North Herts CVS, has been growing and growing, and the popular knitting group made up of fellow members takes place every Friday morning at the Community Coffee Bar held at the Brotherhood Hall on Gernon Road. The group is always looking to find new members to help take on new projects, and have recently raised money for Guide Dogs for the Blind by selling knitted clothing and gifts they have made. If you are interested in joining or learning how to knit just come along to the Brotherhood Hall on a Friday morning between 10:00am and 11.30am and join in the fun. It’s free to join in, and members of all ages are welcome.

The yarn bomb will remain in place until the end of the month, opposite the Broadway Cinema (which is currently showing Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s ‘The World’s End’ which was filmed in Letchworth and features the cinema as one of the pubs!)  and once removed the knitted panels will be re-sewn into blankets to be donated to local charities. The art form is unique in this way, as no public property is damaged and nothing is wasted.

The Time Bank is free and easy to join:  visit www.mytimebank.org.uk, call 01462 689405 or email timebank@nhcvs.org.uk to join.

You can also find out more about the Time Bank on the NHCVS Blog, which I also write for!

Ems x

154408_549850605076301_1256179689_n

A few days in Vienna

This Friday I’m lucky enough to be jetting off to the beautiful Vienna. Friends of ours are getting married just south of there on Saturday, and whilst we won’t get to spend too much time in Vienna itself, preparing to go is reminding me of the wonderful holiday Adam and I had there last November.

Just in time for all the Christmas markets opening up all over the city, we spent a few days in Vienna and absolutely adored it. It’s a stunning city, with lots of open space so that you can stand back to be wowed by the wonderful architecture. We loved the palaces and museums, as well as the incredible food and amazing coffee shops. We were delighted to see dogs everywhere and welcomed into shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Christmas Markets were definitely the highlight of the trip for me, but I can’t wait to see the city again in the warmer weather.

And as I’ve been promising other wedding guests some tips on where to visit whilst there, I thought I’d share some of my favourite bits about Vienna here on my blog over the next few days…..there’ll be a post about our best food and coffee recommendations, where we most loved visiting, and some of the must-see sights. I’ll start tomorrow with food….as that was definitely a huge highlight for us both!

Enjoy,

Ems x