Sunday, 28 September 2014

September Update

2014 might just be the busiest year of my life so far, and it's certainly been the craziest! I've been absolutely rushed off my feet throughout September, but in a good way, and I've loved being nice and busy. 

Whilst I have been up and down the country and here there and everywhere keeping busy, which has been great, I haven't been blogging as regularly as I'd have liked to. But I have loads to tell you about, so I thought I'd do a little update post to tell you what I've been getting up to this month! 

Running a Half Marathon


I think I'll start with today when I ran my first ever half marathon! Here I am with my amazing Mum who also ran the race; it was the Isle of Axholme Anna Verrico Half Marathon around Epworth to raise money for Cancer Research. It was a little bit warm but on the whole we were very lucky with the weather, and I'm very pleased to say the marathon had an amazing turn out and was such an amazing experience and we both said that we would be up for it again!

Being back in Brum


This week I re-visited Birmingham, my home from home, for the first time in over a year. I went to stay with my bestest buddy Polly who has just started her PhD (clever clogs!). We met on day 1 of freshers during our undergrad days at the University of Birmingham, and we been close ever since. I went to have a good old catch up and to check out her new abode and it was just what I needed.


We also paid a visit to my friend David and ate at Boston Tea Party in Harborne, which was amaaaazing! It's a chain which started in Exeter but it has that lovely friendly independent feel about it. We had tea and cake (doesn't it all look gorgeous?) but the cooked food looks gorgeous too so I will be returning to sample it!

London for the day


A job interview early last week drew me to London, and I got a late train back which allowed me plenty of time to people watch in King's Cross Station and and appreciate it in all its beauty at night. I think it's one of my favourite train stations and the ceiling is so pretty.

The BALT (Bacon, Avocado, Lettuce and Tomato sarnie)


I get a lot of inspiration and ideas from Instgram, especially with regards to my cooking creations. I knocked this up for my packed lunch when I went to London and my goodness it was delish. I just needed to tell you about this combo because next time you have a BLT you really need to think about adding some avocado. Yum!

Birds of Prey 


For my Dad's birthday prezzie my big brother and I bought him a falconry day experience in Thirsk in North Yorkshire, and I went along to join him for the day. This is me having my experience last year. We had a lovely Dad/Daughter day and he had an amazing time holding all sorts of different eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures and owls (my fave!). I'd highly recommend the day if you live in the vicinity of Thirsk, and I think it's a bit different from your average present!

A darn good batch of Slutty Brownies


Half price Oreos at the supermarket calls for... Slutty Brownies. As a huge fan of baked goods and of The Londoner blog this is a rare but very special treat perfect for the weekend. These brownies are the best ever and they're so easy to whip up. Double Stuff Oreos are the best to use for this recipe if you can get hold of them. I like to eat mine warm with a scoop of clotted cream vanilla ice cream. Utter perfection.

Discovering new products that smell amazing


I believe this brand of shampoo and conditioner is new on the scene, or certainly new on the popularity scene. It's called Ogx (or Organix) and I thought I'd give it a go to see what all the fuss was about. This was not a decision I regretted as this conditioner made my hair so soft and smell amazing too. I highly recommend this to try and I'm sure the other products in the range are pretty good too.

Finishing Uni


September was the month I moved out of my University accommodation and away from Canterbury. I had such an amazing time here last autumn and this summer. This city is gorgeous and I have lots of fond memories here that I'll keep with me for a long time. I will be returning  before too long, as I have my graduation to attend in November which is being held in the Cathedral. So I have lots to look forward to and I can't wait to see what happens next. 

I hope October is just as exciting!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Festival of the Plough


Hello! Sorry I've been away for a short while. I've been on the move an awful lot and I've migrated back up North(ish) to my family home to have a little R&R.

I'm loving all the home comforts I have to say! I have just had the biggest roast pork dinner and after I've written this I'm going to have some of the Slutty Brownie I made. Heaven! 

Anyway, back to today's blog post. The Festival of the Plough is a big agricultural fair that goes on just outside my village every year at the end of September. I've missed it 3 out of the 3 ysars my family have lived here because I've always been at uni, so when I found out it was going to be on while I was at home I was excited to see what it's all about!

Last year was famously a washout but luckily today was dry and fresh so perfect for walking through the fields to the action. Me, my Mum, Dad and Molly the collie set off.


Wearing my brand new Joules wellies. These things are a dream! So comfy and very very pretty. I bought a pair of Joules' welly socks to wear too but I didn't today as it wasn't quite cold enough yet. In a couple of months time they'll come in!


There was an amazing turn out at the event and as we approached we could see rows and rows of cars, lots of dogs walking their owners and tractors trundling around for the ploughing competition. 

There were plenty of stalls selling cheeses, homemade jam, craft stalls and artisan bread. We keep chickens so as soon as we spotted a chicken tent we were in like a shot! 




There were so many beautiful birds of all shapes and sizes which were being assessed and awarded rosettes by attentive judges. Unfortunately they didn't seem to be selling them as we were looking out for any potential friends to take home with us.

Poor old Molly got spooked quite quickly after we arrived so my Dad had to take her home to calm her, so my Mum and I carried on alone. 

After buying some honey from a friendly local beekeeper Mum couldn't resist signing up for a women's brick lifting competition!


Even wearing her smart jacket she got all the way up to 12 bricks.


But couldn't quite manage the thirteenth to take the title.


Not a bad effort for someone with little arms! Just look at the amazed crowd!

We then went off for a well deserved alcoholic refreshment in the drinks tent. Lager for Mum, Malibu and Coke pour moi.


We had such a lovely day chatting to people and walking all around the stalls. I made one purchase myself and I cannot wait to start using it...


A handmade mouse doorstop! Just how cute is this?! And for just ten pounds too. 

If you live around the North Lincolnshire area you should make time to spend the afternoon at the Festival with your family/friends. I may see you at the brick lifting competition in 2015!



Thursday, 11 September 2014

Plum and Apple Jam


I love making jam and at this time of year it's the best way to use up all the lovely fruit if you have rather a lot. We have a Victoria Plum tree which is chockablock with plums, so we have been making lots of muffins, crumbles and of course just eating them off the branch. 



^ the tree!

Making jams and chutneys are a brilliant way of preserving your fruit for later on and you can give jars to friends and family as presents too.

I've made plum jam before and it turned out so well, so I thought I'd give this plum and apple recipe a go for a bit of a change. Bramley Apples are the best for this recipe and they're very easy to come by in the UK in autumn for not a lot. In fact, this whole recipe is very economical,  the only thing that will cost much at all is the sugar, but it's darn delicious and yields about 10 jars so don't let that put you off.

Ingredients

700g/1.5 lb plums, halved and stones removed
700g/1.5 lb cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
300ml water
1.5kg/3 lb sugar

Method

1. In a huge pan (the biggest you can get hold of) bring the plums, apples, lemon juice and water to the boil. 



2. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 mins until the fruit is soft. 

3. Add the sugar and stir in thoroughly until it has dissolved. Bring the jam to the boil and boil for 25-30 mins or until the setting point has been reached. 


(TIP - you can test if the jam has reached its setting point by blobbing a teaspoon full on a cold saucer, letting it cool for a couple of minutes, then pushing the surface with your finger tip. If the jam has formed a skin which rumples up when it is touched, your jam is there, if not it needs a little longer). 

4. Use a slotted spoon to skim off any scum from the surface. Leave the jam to cool before pouring it in to clean, dry and slightly warmed jars. 


Et voila! Perfect plum and apple jam to enjoy with buttery toast and a cup of coffee. 

Don't forget to give a jar to your friends and fam the next time you pop round, I think they'll be rather impressed! 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Atholl Brose


Hello there! I've got a lovely healthy bit I breakfast inspiration for you today. This recipe became a favourite of mine when my mum and I went to Ragdale Hall health spa a couple of years ago. They would deliver breakfast to your room which was such a treat, and every morning we were there I got this. 

It's a lovely take on porridge, served cold with berries. The recipe is delicious and dead simple which is exactly what I think breakfast should be. 


This is pretty much all you will need to make this lovely little brekkie! 

Atholl Brose is a traditional recipe but it's very similar to overnight oats which are really popular right now. This is at its best when it's made about 24 hours in advance to let the oats soak nicely.

Ingredients

150g oats
250g plain natural yoghurt
1tbsp runny honey
A couple of handfuls of berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries etc.)

Method

1. Toast your oats under the grill for 3 minutes until they are nicely golden
2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the yoghurt, honey and oats until well combined
3. Spoon evenly in to little jars/cups and layer with the berries
4. Place in the fridge overnight or ideally for a day. Then enjoy!

I used blackberries as they are in season right now, but any other berries you can get hold of or have to hand would be wonderful.

This is really good for digestion and skin, and I found that this filled me up until lunchtime, even when I was doing all sorts of activities at the spa. 

Let me know what you think if you try this out!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The London Eye


There were a million and one things I thought of getting for Jules for his birthday. It's the first of his birthday's which we've spent together so I wanted to get him something extra special. He has loads of different interests which is great but I almost had too many options when I was deciding. In the end I decided to get him and experience and remembered he had said he had never been on the London Eye. I have been on before so I know the drill, but it was nearly 10 years ago, and I really wanted to go along with him to enjoy it all over again.


We travelled from Faversham to Lindon Victoria and seeing as it was such a beautiful day we walked from Victoria to Westminster taking in the sights and delights if the capital.



I booked in advance to make sure we got a slot, which I would highly recommend as you also save a little bit of money doing it this way. Just print out the tickets at home and turn up 45 minutes before your rotation time.

We arrived really early so to keep ourselves busy Jules showed me around the area near Westminster. I've been to London quite a few times in my life but he has been much more than me and knows the city really well, so it was nice to have a personal tour guide.


We lucked in with the weather! After wandering around for a while and having some lunch, we found a sunny spot and chatted and people watched.

The London Eye experience is really well organised and when it was time for us to ride we walked up a bit early and a friendly steward showed us to the correct queue and scanned our tickets in. 

It took about 15-20 minutes from joining the queue to getting in the pod. You have to be quick getting in and out, as it moves faster than I expected! Our pod had just the right amount of people in it, to create a bit of an atmosphere but let us all move around.


We took a couple of mandatory selfies to pass the time until we got high enough to see anything exciting.



The views are amazing! It was a tiny bit misty but you could still see for miles and miles. 





From start to finish the experience lasts 30 minutes. Jules absolutely loved it and it's a lovely thing to do as a couple, so it was lovely to have his first London Eye experience together.

We would both wholly recommend a ride the next time you're in London town!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Eggy Bread Crumpets


Today I present to you a true guilty pleasure. Salty, crispy bacon and sweet syrup drizzled over fluffy eggy crumpets, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! 

Eggy bread reminds me of being a kid, making it with my friend Becky on a Sunday morning and thinking we were such grown up chefs. My cookery skills might have developed a bit since then but this is still a much loved treat of mine! I don't have it often but when I spotted this recipe on Jamie Oliver's website no less, I knew it had to be made.

This is a great retake on classic eggy bread because the holes in the crumpet soak in the egg and cooks in to it aswell.

This recipe serves one but can easily be multiplied if you want to cook up a storm for a crowd. You will need...

Ingredients 

2 crumpets
1 egg
2 rashers of bacon
Maple syrup
Knob of butter

Method

1. Crack the egg in to a medium bowl and beat thoroughly. Soak each crumpet, leaving them in for about 5 minutes until all the egg has been soaked up.

2. Meanwhile, put a knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan and heat until really hot. Put the bacon rashers in to the pan on one side and add the crumpets on the other. Cook the crumpets for about 4 minutes until they are golden, then flip as cool on the other side. 

3. Once the bacon is crispy an the crumpets have been cooked on both sides, arrange the bacon on top of the crumpets and drizzle plenty of maple syrup on top.



Serve! Pour yourself a cold glass of OJ and enjoy. This is a lovely meal to take your time over on a lazy morning, so make it next weekend and surprise your friends!