Foodie Friday: Food Waste and a banana saving recipe!

Food waste and a banana saving recipe

Last night at my monthly WI meeting, I was treated to a talk from Duncan Milwain from Saltaire Canteen, a pay-as-you-feel cafe centred around intercepting food waste. The canteen is part of the Real Junk Food Project, of which Duncan is a Trustee, and he came to tell us about the project and why it’s so important.

I was fairly aware that we waste an awful lot of food as a nation, in part because of silly food labelling and regulations, but I had no idea just how much. The biggest shocker for me was that, averaged out, we waste more than one whole chicken per person per year, which is just awful. And despite bananas being the nation’s favourite fruit, it is also the most wasted one. We consume over five billion a year, but bananas also account for 20% of the 15 million tonnes of food waste produced in the UK each year!

I confess, this made me pretty mad….I know that most of us prefer to eat them before they get too ripe (although there are more health benefits associated with them once they’re brown!) but we never throw any away in our house, because even the over-ripe ones still have plenty of uses! Banana loaf is probably the most well known use for over-ripe bananas (we love it with butter on at breakfast, and I’m currently working on a very healthy recipe using only coconut flour and oil, with no refined sugar!), and indeed it’s better made with brown speckly ones than green ones by far. But that’s not much good if you don’t have the other fresh ingredients to hand, or especially if you don’t have the time to bake one when your bananas happen to be ready. And as a fellow WI member pointed out last night, if you’re watching your treat intake, making cake from fruit isn’t really a good idea.

So, what we do with the bananas we know we won’t eat is to quickly chop them up, stick them in a storage tub and bung them in the freezer. Why? To make ice cream!!! We’ve been doing this for yonks as it’s really the easiest thing in the world, and great for when we want bananas on the side of pancakes or a Belgian waffle but have none in the fruit bowl. And recently we’ve been a bit more creative too, adding things to make a sweeter and more chocolatey version. I know plenty of people do the same, but with so many bananas being wasted I thought I’d share our recipe in the hope that it stops a few bananas going in the bin!

Basic Healthy Banana Ice Cream Recipe

  1. Chop your too-ripe bananas roughly and pop them in a storage container in the freezer for at least 24 hours
  2. Take the frozen bananas out and transfer to a bowl or measuring jug
  3. Blend the bananas, ideally with a stick blender, adding a little milk (we like to use coconut and/or almond milk) if needs be to help the process
  4. Et voilà! Yum up your banana ice cream on its own, with a yummy pudding or sweet breakfast

Slightly Naughty Chocolatey Banana Ice Cream Recipe

  1. Chop your too-ripe bananas roughly and pop them in a storage container in the freezer for at least 24 hours
  2. Take the frozen bananas out and transfer to a bowl or measuring jug
  3. Blend the bananas, ideally with a stick blender, adding a little milk (we like to use coconut and/or almond milk) if needs be to help the process
  4. Add a glug of maple syrup, a drop of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of raw cacao powder, and gently mix together…you may want to adjust the amounts to taste and return the mixture to the freezer for a little if it’s too melty

Both recipes make the most delicious treat, a creamy-smooth gelato-like ice cream…plus it can easily be dairy free. And even the chocolatey version isn’t too naughty at all…the maple syrup provides a sweetness boost without refined sugars, and raw cacao has many known health benefits because of its high fibre and antioxidants. Plus, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ve eaten something that may otherwise have gone to waste. Winner!

 

Ems x

 

 

 

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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

 

Something from the weekend….or two….

Just a very quick entry to my little online weekend diary…I love rounding up what we’ve been up to so that I can look back and remember our adventures!

Coffee in the car

Last weekend we took a road trip up to Northallerton for the wedding of our friends Richard and Tara!

Home made confetti

I’d made some confetti from the roses in the garden…although we never got around to throwing it!

Gum ball sweets wedding favour

After the very sweet ceremony there was a scrummy sit down meal…                                                                                      I couldn’t resist eating the sweeties from our favours in between courses though!

Cutting the wedding pork pie

As well as the traditional wedding cake, there was also wedding pie!

Mauve and purple wedding flowers

We did lots of dancing, ate a late chip supper,                                                                                                                           and I got to take some of the gorgeous flowers home too!

The view of the Yorkshire Dales from Leyburn

On the Sunday we set off on an adventurous journey home, via Leyburn, where we found this stunning view!

Vintage deer book ends

We loved the shops in Leyburn…the wonderful independent supermarket,                                                                        the galleries and a brilliant antique shop where we saw these beauties!

Middleham Castle

After Leyburn we went to view a house in Middleham.                                                                                                            We loved it (and the castle round the corner!) but decided it’s a bit too far out for us!

Autumn leaves

This weekend we spent Saturday mooching about nearer home.                                                                                           We walked the dogs, had lunch in a local tea room, and did a little shopping.

Buddha's Hand Lemon

We also drove to our nearest garden centre to see what we could see…                                                                           which happened to include Father Christmas and this rather wonderful ‘Buddha’s Hand’ lemon tree!

Me and the hounds at Ripley Castle

As for this Sunday, we drove up to Ripon to view three houses there. The town centre was closed off for the Remembrance Day Parade at the cathedral, so we stopped off in Ripley on the way back for lunch and a walk.

Ripley Castle bridge and waterfall

We ate in the Cromwell Tea Rooms at the castle, then took the dogs to explore the grounds.                                      We’ll definitely want to go back to explore properly!

Ripley Ice Cream

Adam was delighted to get to try out the ‘World Famous Ripley Ice Cream’ for the first time too…                        despite it being pretty chilly!

Otley Brass Band and Remembrance Day parade 2014

Once home, we mostly relaxed and chilled. We were delighted to hear the sound of Otley Brass Band outside as we sat about though, and after racing upstairs to see over the garden hedge saw that the                                    Remembrance Day Parade was passing.

 

I do hope you had a good weekend, whatever you were up to!

Ems x

Living for the weekend…… 1st and 2nd September 2012 in London

I’ve been making lots and lots of lists this week, in readiness for our move……and not just packing lists and furniture buying lists either. There are so many things I want to do and see before we leave London…..I’ve lived here for 12 years and still haven’t done everything I want to! But then I’m sure I could stay another 12 and still not get through the ever-increasing list! And we’ll not to be too far away, so I’m trying to cut myself a little slack and just make sure I get to as many things as is reasonable! There are a good few things on the list for this weekend of course, and lots of them things that are only on for a few days, so they get priority……

Kings Cross Ice Cream Festival

1st and 2nd September, 11am to 6pm

The Granary Building, Granary Square, Kings Cross

Free entry

This free, family friendly, two-day festival showcases the best ice cream makers in London and the South East and celebrates the history and production of ice cream in the region. Ice cream enthusiasts will learn about the history of ice cream and how it’s made, as well as having the chance to get involved with milking cows, making art, and making ice cream using the latest in nitrogen technologies.

Bowiefest

31st August to 2nd September

ICA, The Mall

Tickets from £10

You may well be as shocked as I am about this, but believe it or not, David Bowie is 65 this year and his seminal album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is celebrating its 40th anniversary! And what a great way to celebrate the man of awesome….with the UK’s first film festival dedicated to David Bowie. The festival includes screenings, talks, Q&As, and is going to make for a truly unique event.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Medals

Until 9th September

The British Museum, Room 37

Free entry

As part of my quest to see every room at the British Museum this year, I popped into Room 37 this Monday and was very impressed with the mini-exhibition there. The display tells the story of the production and design of the medals for the London 2012, including details on the mining of the metal by Rio Tinto, the process of the designs by David Watkins and Lin Cheung, and the fascinating production by the Royal Mint. As usual, the British Museum goes the extra mile by giving historical context for the medals in the shape of 19th and 20th century objects highlighting the longstanding links between Britain and the Olympic and Paralympic movements.

Regent Street Festival

Sunday 2nd September, 1pm to 8pm

Regent Street

Free

Head to Regent Street this Sunday for the thirteenth annual Regent Street Festival. Expect eentertainment on the street itself, as well as in-store activities and discounts. The restaurants in the food quarters, Heddon Street and Swallow Street, are also serving special menus and cocktails to boot, and you can keep up to date with everything going on using the Living Regent Street app on your iPhone.

Liberty Festival

1st to 3rd September

Various locations

Free entry

As part of the Mayor of London events for 2012, Liberty Festival offers Londoners the chance to watch the world’s top deaf and disabled performers and artists from the UK and beyond. At venues ranging from the Southbank Centre, BT London Live in the park, the BFI and Potters Fields at More London, you can see comedy, theatre, film and music events, as well as watch the coverage of the Paralympic Games.

The 39 Steps

Criterion Theatre, Picadilly

Special offer tickets from £20

I wouldn’t usually single out one show as a must-see in one of my weekend ideas posts, but I saw this for the second time last night and I just think it’s an unbeatably good night out. Start with a pre-theatre dinner at the stunning Criterion Restaurant (just £19 for two courses on the their set menu, which is packed with seasonal and ethically sourced produce as well as home made bread and butter!), then head just next door to the theatre to see this brilliant show….. Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller, The 39 Steps, has been cleverly and hilariously adapted for the stage, and has won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy to prove it. With a brilliant cast of just four, the story is acted out using wittily chosen props which imagine up the dozens of settings. It’s fast paced, intelligent, and super funny…..and with special offers on tickets with Time Out, there’s no excuse to miss out!

I hope that’s inspired you! Have a fab weekend!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. markets, photos and cocktails

WHAT an amazing weekend! I’m shattered after doing so much, but it was all so worth it. Adam and I had our dear friend Hannah to stay, and so we made sure we crammed as much in as possible. There are lots of things I’d like to share individually, so for now I’ll just give you the lowdown….as soon as I get chance I’ll be back to tell you more about the things in bold in detail!

After a lazy start and a bit of a lie-in, Adam and I trundled down the road on Saturday morning towards Judy’s Affordable Vintage fair at Old Spitalfields. On our way though, we decided to pop into the Adnams shop, which is actually one of the shops on the outer edge of the market…..I’d read about their new eau de vie de biere ‘Spirit of Broadside’ on Domestic Sluttery, and wanted to try for myself! I’d never been in before, because I’d foolishly presumed that it’s just a shop full of beers (although I do really rate their beers, that said) but inside it’s actually an incredibly well-stocked wine shop. As well as a great range of wines, home wares and other bits and bobs, there are actually several Adnams spirits for sale…I had no idea that they have their own distillery and make vodka, gin, limoncello and other treats! Anyway, suffice to say for now, we very much enjoyed trying out lots of things, and came out with a bottle of Spirit of Broadside!

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After getting a bit tipsy on samples, we headed inside to the indoor market, and set about snooping the many vintage stalls. There were a few that we recognised, and I was very, very tempted to buy several little Hornsea pottery deer, but it wasn’t quite as good as when we’ve been before. I did however pic up a very lovely floral dish for just a pound! But we couldn’t potter about all day…..we popped across to Brick Lane for some provisions, and on the way finally got around to trying Nude Esperesso next to the Truman Brewery, buying a couple of very good macchiatos and a bag of beans to take home.

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Back at home by mid afternoon, I set about making the flat ready for our visitor, and we prepared our breakfast for the next morning…. I’d been inspired by a post on The Cake Hunter earlier in the week, and decided to make us all cinnamon whirls for Sunday morning breakfast. I actually ended up adapting a couple of recipes to make banana and cinnamon whirls in the end….I made the dough and filling, and put them together in the tray ready to bake first thing in the morning. It all smelled wonderful as I prepared it, so I was most excited to bake them on Sunday!

Before long though it was time to pick Hannah up from the tube station, and for our first adventure we took her to our local, the Oliver Conquest. We only recently discovered that they serve over fifty different gins, so it has fast become a favourite of ours! We all dutifully sampled a gin each…. the Geranium gin (for Hannah), the Hayman’s (for me) and the Old Raj (for Adam). It was a great way to start our evening, sat on the big comfy sofa with drinks, chatting and catching up.

Next, we made our way to Brick Lane where we met up with friends Richard and Tara for a curry. Hannah had never been before, so we’d prepared her for the usual….lots of salesy people out on the street trying to lure you into their respective restaurants with various deals. We decided we wanted to make our way at least half way down the road before choosing somewhere, as we often get over excited and choose the first or second place we come across! And we made it a good way along before heading inside a restaurant where we’d been promised Lychee Lassis!

After the meal, we headed just around the corner to what is probably one of my top three places to drink….. I was told about Lounge Bohemia just after it opened a few years ago. A colleague had worked with the owner, so I was told a little about this fantastic bunker of a bar which served totally out of this world cocktails. Just as well really, as I’m not sure I’d ever have found out about it otherwise! There’s no flashy website to draw you in, and you HAVE to book (there’s a no suits policy too!), but this gives the place a feeling of accessible exclusivity….it’s really not just a bar, but (forgive me) a drinking experience. As usual, we were treated to exemplary service, and THE most incredible cocktails available to man. I won’t give away too much before writing the visit up properly though!

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After our fairly late night (and the copious amounts of booze we’d gotten through), we have another fairly lazy morning on Sunday. I was pretty smug that I’d prepared the cinnamon whirls already though, so they just got brushed with honey and baked for about 20 minutes before we scoffed them alongside the Nude Espresso coffee we’d bought the day before. Then, well fed, we began the walk to Columbia Road flower market. Unfortunately, only half way there, the skies opened and we had to take refuge in Old Spitalfields. Still, it’s not a bad place to while away an hour whilst waiting for the rain to desist, and it was good to show Hannah around. We had started to flag already though, before the rain had even stopped, so we took up a nice spot in the covered terrace of The Luxe. I felt rather better for one of their ‘Veggie’ juice blends, and so with the rain stopped and our energy levels boosted, we finally set off again towards the flower market.

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It was a leisurely, meandering walk there, just because there were so many eye-catching things to photograph, including lots of very cool street art. Nevertheless, we made it there in good time really, and immediately immersed ourselves in the street market. Columbia Road is taken up every Sunday for the famous flower market, and sellers line each side of the road with stalls bearing stacks of fresh cut flowers, herbs, gardening stuff and pot plants. In fact, it’s a mecca for the bargain botanical, and I found myself wishing I had a garden to plant lots of the treasures in. Even if you don’t though, you can pick up amazing steals such as a huge bunch of sunflowers for just a fiver.

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Behind the stalls, there are lots of lovely shops to root about in (handy when it started to rain again!), including Ryan Town, the Rob Ryan shop, which I’ve been wanting to go to for ages. There are also some gorgeous nick-nack shops (my favourite the pretty boutique shared by Buddug and Jessie Chorley) as well as some amazing antique and vintage shops (I was in my element at Vintage Heaven with piles and piles of lovely vintage china!). There is also a little vintage market one road over on Ezra Street, as well as several (very packed) places to eat.

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We opted to make our way back towards Brick Lane though, and stopped in at Benets Ice Cream Parlour for a much needed sugar fix. After being served a rather disappointing Tiramisu, I was given a rather better Rocky Road by the nice man who agreed that the former didn’t taste of anything much. We wandered along Brick Lane with our ice creams and had a snoop about some of the markets. I was very pleased that I Shoot Film were there again, as I’ve been seeing their incredible horse photo for ages and knew Hannah would love it….and in fact, she bought it! We were seriously weary by that time though, and so it was home for a cuppa, and shortly afterwards Hannah made her way home to Hitchin.

Supper was going to have to be pretty filling and very quick and easy, so I roasted up some pumpkin and made a very simple risotto. It was so yummy, despite its simplicity, so I’ll be sure to share the recipe here soon. After that, we were only fit to slob on the sofa watching a film, before we fell into bed for an early night.

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Amazing times!

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Ems x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something from the weekend….. a rather rainy weekend

This weekend was a wonderfully long one, owing to Adam having to take some days holiday before the end of the month. And so on Thursday evening we trotted off to the station to catch a train up to his home town of Hitchin. It was getting late by the time we arrived so there wasn’t much time to do anything (especially after the catch up chats) other than have dinner. Adam’s Mum had cooked us the most delicious veggie bake….layers of different veg with mozzarella in between and all topped with herby breadcrumbs. Yum!

Our excuse for visiting was that it was actually Adam’s Mum’s birthday weekend. And so I was very excited about giving her the home made gifts I had made….. as well as a yummy banana loaf I had painted two canvases for her, one of each of her dogs. She was absolutely delighted with them too, and we were all pleased to yum up the banana bread over the weekend!

Banana Bread

On Friday morning (trying to remember it wasn’t yet Saturday!) we popped into town to go to the lovely flea market that’s there every Friday. We’ve had some real success there before, having found some wonderful vintage buttons and my incredible 50cm high Victorian Bell Cloche on the last visit. This time it was a darling little white leather flask I couldn’t resist….. I bought it for just £9 from the military stall, and it has a wonderful silver badge on the front with my initials (also the Queen’s!).

Vintage military hip flask from Hitchin Flea Market

We also couldn’t resist the chalk board sign in the window at Halsey’s (the gorgeous little tea room / gallery / deli just off the market square which dates back to 1854) which advertised Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar as the best cheese in the world…..and so in we went to buy a large chunk for lunch when we got home. And we can certainly concur with the judges…..melted on toast in the Aga it was absolutely delicious….just the right balance of creaminess, sharpness and a little earthiness which comes from aging the makers’ truckles inside the famous cave.

Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar from Halsey's

In the evening, it was off to Letchworth and the sweet little Broadway Cinema there. It was lovely to have a change from our usual large cinema in London….the audience were much better behaved and the auditorium is very charming in Deco styling. The film was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and we all loved it….. I’m so very fond of many of its cast (Judie Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith…..) and it really is a very funny and heart warming film. The film’s setting had us all hankering for an Indian meal though and so it was over to Sagar for a curry. All the food was divine…. Adam had an amazing veggie curry in a banana sauce…. and my vegetable Biryani (made with Rose Water, pistachios, coconut and almonds) was lush! And when we’d finished our meal, we were presented with a whole tray full of sweeties, as well as chocolate mint thins with the bill. AND our lovely waiter then made us up his special night-cap (and wouldn’t reveal the secret recipe!) all on the house. Great place.

As the weekend proper started, I decided on three breakfasts to set me up for the day. First breakfast was All-Bran with milk….second breakfast, fruity granola with Rachel’s Organic Vanilla Yoghurt….and third breakfast a lovely slice of granary toast with marmalade and butter. Yummy!

And having yummed this all up we walked down to Gila Timur, a shop on the way to the station, to meet Adam’s Dad for some browsing. From outside, it looks like any other independent furniture shop, but inside it is a treasure trove of gorgeous pieces from all over the world. Adam’s Dad had wanted us to see the Indonesian sculptures there which are absolutely stunning….. I also loved all the gorgeous furniture made from reclaimed boat timber which still has layers of chipped paint on it. Having gotten chatting to one of the owners, he told us about his pride and joy which resides in one of the rooms in the labyrinthine basement….. an enormous (we think at least 9 feet tall) and incredibly intricate wood carved sculpture of Hanuman, the Hindu deity who appears in the form of a monkey. The owner explained how it is common practice for such sculptures (that is, carvings not made for tourists, and of such immense size) to be imbued with a spirit, and we certainly felt a presence about the sculpture like nothing we had ever experienced.

After a jaunt around all the charity shops and a trip to Waitrose for dinner ingredients, we spied a chance in between rain showers to go out for a walk with the dogs around Ickleford Common and Gerry’s Hole. The light was gorgeous as the sun began to set over all the damp trees and grass, and the dogs enjoyed running for sticks (as well as a little swim in the river for Newton!).

Ickleford Common

Walking the dogs

We worked up quite the appetite after our stroll, so we were pleased to be heading over to see some friends and cook dinner for the six of us. I’d made my signature Chilli last time, so it was Adam’s turn to make his wonderful Carbonara. Everyone yummed this up, alongside wine and cider…..and we remained at the table to eat cola cupcakes made by Holly and to play my all time favourite board game: Cranium. We played boys versus girls, and having cheated terribly, the boys beat us by a hair. It was a brilliant game though, highlights including the boys having to roll a length of sculpting clay as long as Adam’s left foot (between them, and using only their left hands)…. Martin’s whistled rendition of Tomorrow from Annie….. and my expertly sculpted toilet.

Cola cupcake

Sunday brought a shocking amount of rain, and so we decided to stay another night to avoid traveling home in it….or from leaving the house at all really. We started the day with a naughty breakfast of Belgian waffles with strawberries, ice cream and maple syrup…. and then settled down to some rainy day activities such as completing the crossword, eating home made fudge and lounging about. I did manage to be a little productive though and wove a few pendants from beads in the shape of snow drops, inspired by our countryside walk the day before. Hopefully I’ll get these onto my Etsy Shop this week. For supper, it was roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings….. gosh it was lovely with a glass of red (and with a pudding of ice cream and chocolate Torte made by Adam’s Mum’s friend for her birthday!). We finished off a slobby day watching the classic no-brainer Van Helsing (hurrah for Hugh Jackman!) before falling asleep very full and contented.

Snow drops next to the river

This morning we lay in before another waffle breakfast (this time without the ice cream so very healthy) and then packed, ready to leave. After a short and tolerable train journey home, we popped to Waitrose for the week’s shop and returned with fresh coffee and Duchy Originals Hot Cross Buns…..which we devoured whilst completing the cross word.

What a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours too,

Ems x

April…..

As April came, so did an early summer, and with it droves of sun worshipers. Trinity Square Gardens and More London were full of sun bathers and picnickers as I walked home and we even managed a lunch break picnic in the grounds of Kings (although I had to drape everyone’s cardigans over me to stop me from burning!). And with lighter and warmer evenings coming in we were less inclined to spend them cooped up in the flat so off we dawdled down to the river with a bottle of chilled rose and sat in Wapping watching the sun come down, with Tower Bridge as our rather impressive backdrop.

And not wishing to miss the sunny opportunity, we headed off the following weekend around the City (not venturing more than five minutes radius from the flat though, but walking for hours nonetheless!) with our cameras and a packed lunch. First we climbed the Monument which I’ve been meaning to do for years. There are 311 steps to the viewing gallery at the top of Christopher Wren’s 200 ft Doric Column, but it was worth the climb for the views underneath the gilded urn of fire it’s topped with. Although it’s surrounded by mesh to stop you falling off / throwing things down like at the top tier of the Eiffel Tower, you get an amazing 360 view of London and you can poke your camera lens out of the mesh anyway! We enjoyed working out where the flat is and spent time gazing at the yet-to-be-finished Shard over the other side of the river. My Diana loved it up there too and the header image for Pretty Pretentious was actually taken up there on 120mm film….I love the colour and the graininess which of course I didn’t get on the digital photos. To cap it all off, when we got back down (you come back by the same steps so it’s a bit of a struggle passing everyone, like in the bell tower in Florence and the city walls in Sienna) we got A CERTIFICATE!

Having rested at the foot of the Monument with our picnic (and there met the most adorable little dog!) we went on for our next adventure….. I’d heard there was a sort of secret garden near to Monument and over the road from Old Billingsgate (we do a lot of events there and a colleague had mentioned she’d had a picnic there). So around the corner we found St Dunstan’s In The East, a ruined church and now the most idyllic public gardens. You’ll be able to see from the number of photos I took on both film and in digital on the Flikr links below, but I absolutely adore the place. There are fig trees, palms, fountains, fragrantly filled planters, climbers and even an ‘insect hotel’. In the knave which has no roof at all after the church was partly destroyed during the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, the garden is one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever found. I could have sat there for the rest of the day easily.

But then of course we had the rest of the city to discover and photograph, and it was on to the Lloyd’s Building next. Adam hadn’t been before so I took great delight in showing him one of my favourite pieces of architecture. I spent ages taking shots staring up at its weird exterior conduits and pipes, and then of its reflection in the adjacent building. More fun still was lying down on the nearby St Mary Axe looking up at the Gherkin, taking fish-eye shots with Diana. Passing tourists were fairly confused but of course that just added to the fun.

Next it was a walk down Cornhill towards Bank (finding an amazing church on the way, called St Michael’s, set back from the road hidden in between the offices and shops, but great for close up photos) and some photos around the Royal Exchange (not to mention a snoop around Lulu Guinness, Pretty Ballerinas and Jo Malone!). And that was about as much as we could muster for the day really….although the last leg home found us a moment of magic in a stray balloon….. A solitary green balloon was just caught in the railings around the corner form the flat, and kept catching the breeze so it looked as though it had a little personality or something. It was like our very own Red Balloon (gorgeous film….you must see) as Adam and I chased it along the road taking photos and playing with our shadows against it. Until of course it popped.

Finally over the grief of the popped balloon, we went to dinner at Hix at the Albermarle that evening. Not really for any reason other than perhaps it was too warm to bother cooking and we wanted to dress up a little. The place is stylish in a linen with neon kind of way….it’s a cool hotel but you don’t feel like you have to be trendy to be there and it has just enough of the traditional touches. My starter was a salad (well of course, it was the start of ‘summer’ after all) of Chicory, Asparagus and Quail Eggs…the latter being plentiful and superbly soft boiled. After that for me it was Sea Trout with Mussels and a rather naughty Mashed Potato (well, I’d just had salad hadn’t I?!). For pudding we had the same….Seabuckthorn Trinity Burnt Cream….and impressed I certainly was. Not least because they did the right thing in calling it Trinity Burnt Cream rather than crème Brulee (we are British after all, and I’m tired of going to places which apparently pride themselves on their British food but then name half their dishes after their French counterparts), but also because the service team could tell us in so much detail about all of the ingredients….my only experience of Seabuckthorn is in that amazing Weleda hand cream so naturally I needed to ask what on earth it was doing in a dessert, and our waitress went on to tell me exactly where it came from, its characteristics, flavour, texture, the lot. Brilliant. Our sommelier was top notch too, and the cocktails lovely. And our Poire William truffles with the coffee were the end to a practically faultless meal.

Viewing in April was fairly action packed, beginning with Source Code. Whilst I can’t deny it was the lovely Jake Gyllenhaal that had my interest and in fact got me to the cinema in the first place, the not overly original plot, did keep me engaged with its fast pace and absorbing detail. Playing on some of the concepts we see in Inception and Moon, the action centers on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. Of course there is a twist though, and a make-you-think ‘moral’ that doesn’t quite give you the happy ending you might want, but is probably the better for it.

Twists and almost-but-not-quite happy endings continued with April’s next film, in Thor. It took me a while to convince Adam to go, but Natalie Portman I think sealed the deal. The totally shameless trashiness was somewhat buffeted for me by the fairly (I think) accurate Norse Mythology, but in honesty I was quite happy with the over-the-top action and special effects. We’re left with a satisfying twist and a nice open ending which promises the comic book fanatics a link up with some other super hero friends for an almighty fantasy action epic. Can’t wait.

Work wise in April it was all about preparing for an unusually busy May, but we did manage to skip out of the office to RSVP to see MD Claire give a talk on all those finer details and fun bits we pride ourselves on. Having cheered her on though, we managed to spare just enough time before dashing back to the office to try a few of the new services on show…..an ice cream parlour here, a cupcake station there….hard work. And the hard work continued as we cheered on colleague Sarah as she took on the London Marathon, spectacularly dressed up of course, head to toe in fuchsia with feathers, glitter and sequins! But really it was peach that was floating our boat as spring sprung, as my obsession to find the perfect peach nail polish took over (see my blog link below).

Easter took us, as tradition dictates, to Nottingham where we meet with a big bunch of folks for fun, drinking and football, all under the pretense of something called Join Me (I’ll have to tell that story in a whole other post, too long). The weekend afforded us some light shopping, lots of pub grub, and plenty of good company. After a day spent catching up at the pubs along the canal, we adjured as usual to the famed Cookie Club where we danced like crazies to cheesy ‘alternative’ music whilst trying to stay awake with vodka red bulls (well it had been a long day!). The morning after and it was a Full English we needed before braving an almost unbearably hot sun to watch the boys in their annual North vs South football match. Despite their enthusiasm, it was more of a kick around this year, and we’d hardly finished our ice creams before the whistle was blown and we headed back into town. But we weren’t too disappointed to make an early finish as this left of plenty of time to enjoy the real ale festival at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem. A darling old inn (which indeed purports to be England’s oldest pub, dating back to 1189AD), set right at the foot of the old castle, it’s by far my most favourite place to sit and drink in Nottingham. And so we did, for the rest of the afternoon, with excellent company, wonderful ales (in lovely little half pint tankards) and glorious sun.

The month came to an end with a weekend in Hitchin to celebrate birthdays and weddings of Adam’s friends. Claudine and Mark had recently been married in Jamaica, and so had planned a big get together in Hitchin for family and friends, complete with a family-made Jamaican and French style buffet. We were totally fussed upon by their mums and aunts who were desperate to feed us all up on their signature dishes (Goat Curry, Beef in wine stew, Spicy fish cakes, rice and peas….), and we were only too happy to be spoiled by them.

Next was karaoke in honour of Martin and Rachel’s birthdays. Thankfully a private room had been arranged, so embarrassment was kept within our small circle, which after a few cocktails was just as well. The climatic performance had to have been Martin’s epic rendition of Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden, including several minutes of (air) guitar solo. Less impressive was Jamie’s attempt at a rockstar-esque scene as he thrust his microphone into an ice bucket, rendering it useless. Not cool.

But the real highlight of the month for me was the Royal Wedding. I’d been looking forward to it with so much excitement….bothering Adam to buy commemorative tea towels….checking out Jason’s sticker collection (now complete I believe!)….and following all the media hype on the dress and associated gossip. By the time the big day arrived I could hardly contain myself and felt almost as though I had some kind of involvement in it. I still can’t believe I wasn’t invited (obviously an oversight). Despite Adam’s protests and my concerns that being at Adam’s parents’ house would mean I wouldn’t get to watch it live, the BBC coverage ended up on the TV and we settled down to watch it. Before long, the build up footage got too much to bear for Adam and he began to write a bile-filled blog about how ridiculous it all was (link to his epic diatribe below). I though was engrossed in every detail and began a sort of stream-of-consciousness on Twitter (I think perhaps if my phone weren’t a touch screen I’d have broken the hash key that day).

After hours of interviews and teasing, we finally got word that Kate was about to emerge from the Goring and I edged even closer to the end of the sofa. As she stepped out and we caught the first glimpse of her though, it wasn’t her dress, the veil or the borrowed tiara that sent me reeling…. her pretty bouquet of Myrtle, Sweet William, Hyacinth, Ivy and LILY OF THE VALLEY made me jump right out of my seat in some kind of rage as I sqwarked ‘but that’s *MY* bouquet!’ It’s true of course that there is nothing terribly different about an all white bouquet full of blooms chosen for their meaning, and of course there is nothing to stop me from having my wedding bouquet still made up of one of the flowers Princess Catherine had in hers, but for just a moment there my future bridezilla well and truly reared her head in an embarrassing display of materialistic spoiled brattishness. And in front of Adam’s mum too. Not cool.


Diana in the City……

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyrushton/sets/72157626655477151/

Diana’s secret garden……

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyrushton/sets/72157626655443511/

Photo adventure……

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyrushton/sets/72157626983910337/

St. Dunstan in the East…..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Dunstan-in-the-East

The Red Balloon……

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048980/

Hix at the Albermarle……

http://www.brownshotel.com/dining/hix-at-the-albemarle/

Peachy Perfect Blog……

http://maskevents.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/peachy-perfect/

Adam’s royal wedding blog……

http://unfamiliarceiling.net/2011/04/29/royal-wedding/

Favourite hotels blog……

http://maskevents.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/160/