Monday 30 June 2014

Le Weekend (in pictures)

I spent Saturday manning (womanning?) the book stall at the PTA summer fete with my friend Claire.  Luckily after some apocalyptic rain during set-up the rain gracefully agreed to hold off for a couple of hours while the fete itself was on.  (Which gave me just long enough to dry out.)  Lucas joined me for a stint and turned out to be an enthusiastic (and rather successful) salesman!  My crocheted flowers were a hit with the girls, and made our stall look extra-pretty.

Sunday was Bristol's first Armed Forces Day celebration in Queen Square.  We always go to the one up in Staple Hill but since (a) the weather was crap and (b) it was on the same day as the school fete, we opted for the one in the city centre.

I got to play dress-up with the Royal Marines and donned a fully-loaded bergen (36kg/80lb) and carried a general purpose machine gun.  I walked a little and could probably have made it round the square once, but I absolutely cannot imagine being fit and strong enough to do the 12-mile qualifying march with all that weight.  I didn't even have half of the kit on!  The Sergeant I spoke to said that they typically wear 100kg of gear.  Imagine getting up in the morning for work and slinging a whole extra person on your back?!

I have so much respect for our Armed Forces...they do the world's hardest jobs in highly unpleasant conditions and for the most part, come out smiling.

Lucas tried out a few guns, but decided that a grenade launcher was more his style as it was "cooler" than a machine gun.  He was fascinated to learn that army surveillance drones are steered with an X-box controller!  Mind you, he still wants to be a professional footballer who drives a F1 car in his spare time, so I don't need to fret about him going off to war.  (Especially as he decided that two sports bags were too heavy for him and delegated to me...)

We lounged around in the deckchairs at @Bristol for a while, eating ice-cream and watching science videos on the big screen--no tennis! Shocking!--before heading home.

And because any decent weekend must involve cake, I baked some salted caramel cupcakes. good!

What did you get up to this weekend?


Wednesday 25 June 2014

Grillstock Smokehouse

Grillstock: meat, music and mayhem
I think we may be the last people in Bristol to discover Grillstock.  Given our love of BBQ done right, I'm at a loss to understand why.  I'm even further bemused that with all the time we spend shopping at Forbidden Planet, we've managed to completely miss that there's a Grillstock right across the road.

Luckily we've put this right now...

With so many amazing smells coming from the kitchen, choosing from the menu was really hard.  Lucas was sad that there were no hot dogs left, but gamely gave pulled pork a go.  He liked it, but said it wasn't as good as the one I make.  The boy is cute, but crazy.  Grillstock's pulled pork is out of this world!!  The huge ice-cream float--his very first, at the grand old age of seven--kept him very happy, while we chowed down.

Dave and I both opted for the Smokestack Burger which was huge, and came out medium-rare and absolutely dripping with gloriously melty cheese with seasoned fries and slaw on the side.  Oh my god, this was so good!  The burger itself had bags of flavour and was beautifully juicy; that alone would have been a damn good lunch, but the generous pile of pulled pork in BBQ sauce that was piled on top (and sadly hidden by a tilted bun in the photo) took it to new and delicious heights.  I've had a lot of pulled pork over the years and this is by far the best I've ever tasted.  I'm going to go back for a pulled pork platter sometime very soon...

To go along with our burgers we got a cup of Burnt Ends to share.  These are the little scrappy bits of brisket that break off when you cut it, put back into the smoker until they get amazingly dark, caramelised, and just plain gorgeous.  Each bite was surprisingly spicy in the best possible way!

I'd go back to Grillstock again in a heartbeat. It was a really fun atmosphere and I can imagine how raucous (and even more fun) it would be at night, with cocktails and beer flowing.  Now to find a babysitter...

Grillstock Smokehouse, Clifton
 41 Triangle West, Clifton, Bristol

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Sunday 22 June 2014

Field of crimson

"Many scarlet poppies blossomed all about across the meadows that were so brilliant in colour they almost dazzled Dorothy's eyes. "Aren't they beautiful?" the girl asked, as she breathed in the spicy scent of the bright flowers."
―The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Crimson flowers, gently rippling in the breeze, too many to count...a breathtaking sight...

Luckily these poppies didn't send any of us to sleep.  Instead they were pretty damn uplifting.  I've never seen so many poppies in my life, and just look how tall they are!  Wading through hip-deep poppies, some taller than Lucas, was quite the experience.  We kept to the little paths already trodden in the field and just admired.

Such an amazing place.  It might even be better than the bluebell woods of my dreams...

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Saturday 21 June 2014

Midsummer Cake

Strawberry & elderflower cake
Today it is Midsummer, the summer solstice.  It's been a dreamy day here in Bristol...bright blue skies with the occasional puffy cloud floating by, the sun blazing down and the cheerful clink of ice in a glass.  There's a hint of breeze every so often and it's gloriously hot, but not ridiculously so.  A perfect summer's day.

The only way to make today, and indeed any other day, awesome, is to add cake.  Well, a Lottery win might work, too.

I've been eyeing up this strawberry and elderflower cake on Pinterest for a couple of days.  The styling is just gorgeous--every picture makes me want to grab a fork and dive right in.  Since I've just made a bottle of elderflower cordial and the fridge always has at least one punnet of juicy English strawberries in it at the moment, it seemed like serendipity.  A cake that just had to be made.

This is a super-easy cake to make. I love how towering and abundant it is with the strawberries piled as high as I could get them.

This cake is just as lovely as it looks.  The elderflower flavour is subtle, but that could just be down to my homemade elderflower cordial not being quite as strong as the big brand ones.  Taste your elderflower filling before slathering it onto the cake!!  Still, I'm quite happy to drizzle a little cordial over the cake to pump up the elderflower flavour.  You don't want too much elderflower, though, otherwise you'll drown out the berries which would be a crying shame.

You can find the recipe for this gorgeous cake at Call Me Cupcake blog. a new-to-me blog that I'm going to spend the rest of the weekend drooling over!

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Thursday 19 June 2014

Foraging for Wild Garlic

A few weeks ago, I dragged Dave and Lucas out for an early morning walk in the woods to forage some wild garlic.  After discovering a veritable sea of wild garlic at Arnos Vale Cemetery, I've had it on my mind ever since.  Arnos Vale were quite happy for me to pick their wild garlic, but it felt a bit wrong to pick it from the old graves it was growing over--it would be like eating our ancestors--so I asked around and came up with Baddock's Wood in Westbury-on-Trym as a prime spot for wild garlic.

They weren't kidding.  There was wild garlic as far as the eye could see!

I was planning to do all the picking myself, but Lucas got really enthusiastic about it so I let him carry on and watched as he scrambled up and down slopes looking for the biggest, glossiest leaves he could find.  He filled a carrier bag--I really need to get a trug for more idyllic foraging gear--before we called it a day and zoomed home to turn the leaves into pesto.  (The leaves wilt quickly, so ideally need to be used within an hour.)

Astonishingly, Lucas turned out to be the biggest fan of the wild garlic pesto!  He ate loads of it, slathered in ham sandwiches in place of chutney or mustard, tossed into gnocchi and in pasta, too.  Dave and I liked it, but by comparison, Lucas was nuts about it!  Maybe it was because he foraged for it himself?  Either way, I'm very proud of my little gourmet!

Bouquet of wild garlic flowers
Bouquet of wild garlic flowers

Wild Garlic Pesto

For every 100g of wild garlic leaves
150ml olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
50g toasted pine nuts
50g grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Check through the wild garlic leaves, picking out the ones that are nibbled, brown at the edges, or have an excess of nature on them, ie bird poo.  Put in a colander and wash really well.

Fill a large bowl with ice cold water. Blanch the wild garlic for 30 seconds in a pan of boiling water. Drain and plunge into the cold water until cool.  Drain and then dry on a clean tea towel.

Chop the wild garlic roughly and put in a blender or food processor.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until a paste forms.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Use in exactly the same way as regular basil pesto!  Store in the fridge and eat within a week.


Wednesday 11 June 2014

The end of the bluebell season

Avon Valley Woodlands
Avon Valley Woodlands
One of my dreams has long been to visit a bluebell wood.  You know the sort of thing, a veritable carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see and the air thick and heady with their fragrance...

After some fruitless searching in the woods behind our house, finding only a few clumps of bluebells, I asked on Facebook and was directed to Avon Valley Woodlands in Hanham.

Avon Valley Woodlands seems to be a bit of a secret place.  I mentioned it to a few people and they'd never heard of it, but undeterred I plugged the details into Google Maps and drove there early one morning before the sun got too strong.

I walked through lush green tree tunnels, past tall, sculptural cow parsley which almost sparkled in the early sun.  I wished afterwards that I'd picked an armful and put them in a vase at home.  It might be a weed, but it's still rather beautiful.

Cow Parsley

When I spotted my first bluebell, I realised I was too late.  The bluebells were fading.  Still beautiful, but definitely past their prime.  I kept walking down the steep and winding path and after a few turns I came across these beauties.

I love how they're clustered around the base of the twisted tree trunks.  So pretty!  It's not quite the purple carpet I had hoped for, but it's certainly the closest I've ever gotten to my dream.

Apparently there were even more spectacular bluebells further into the woods by some memorial benches, but by the time I was told that, bluebell season was firmly over for another year.  I'll have to take more walks in the woods next spring to find them!

Did you find any beautiful bluebells this year?

Avon Valley Woodlands
off Castle Farm Road, Hanham, Bristol.
Information leaflet and map

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Monday 9 June 2014

Spreading Some Blog Love

© Jacky Tang (used under Creative Commons license)
It's Monday, and it's a bit dreary outside, so I thought I'd try and spread a few rays of sunshine with some blog love...

Cooking, Cocktails and Captain America: Tales of a Tiny Kitchen and Other Capital Misadventures

Cocktails at the Discount Suit Company
My lovely friend Kate has finally given in to my nagging about starting a blog. (Yay peer pressure!)  She always does wonderfully glam things up in London Town, and I always want more than just Instagram snaps or fleeting mentions of being in the same room as Clark Gregg or Chris Hemsworth!  Details, details!!  She's also a bit of a whiz in the kitchen these days, turning out some amazing Chinese dishes and there's always something inventive in her lunchbox!


Whimsical Mrs W

I met Kim at the South West Blog Social on Saturday and she's just lovely!  I'm not generally one for beauty blogs--I'm the sort of girl that remembers about lipstick after the party has started--but I am looking forward to her posting about all the lotions and potions we got from Yves Rocher in our goodie bags so that I know what to do with them!  (I'm pretty clear on the shower gel though, just sayin'.)  Kim also mixes in some lovely lifestyle posts which is what will keep me coming back again and again.


Medicated Follower of Fashion

I met Alex on the train to Exeter for the South West Blog Social when she dropped her business cards and I took a stab in the dark and asked if she was going, too.  Happily she was!  Alex blogs about fashion, parenting, and lifestyle.  All good stuff!


Escape to the Westcountry

When I met Sarah I embarrassed the heck out of myself by squealing like a teenager at a One Direction concert when she said that she had horses!  HORSES!  I grew up reading so many horsey books and desperately wanted to join the Pony Club.  Alas, even though we lived in a rural area, I was a townie and you couldn't even put a Shetland pony in my back garden.  I know that I'm going to love reading all about her horses, gorgeous dogs, and even the cats (I'm so a dog person), not to mention the sheep!

Devon is such a gorgeous part of the country and I already get lashings of seaside fun from Michelle, so it's lovely to get the lush, leafy and horsey perspective, too!


* * *

So, there you have it: four new (or new to me) blogs.  And would you look at that?!  The sun's come out now...I guess it approves of my choices.  Go and show them some sunny love, too!

(All images copyright their respective owners.)

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Sunday 8 June 2014

What I Wore: South West Blog Social

I don't pose for pics very totally can't tell, right?
Okay, I'll be honest.  This feels a bit weird... never in a million years did I think I'd be doing an outfit post, but I thought I looked pretty cute yesterday and the photos came out quite nicely, so here we are in foreign territory!

This is the outfit I wore to the South West Blog Social in Exeter yesterday, minus an emerald green cardigan as it turned into a scorcher of a day!  The tea dress is from Sainsbury's and when I got to the till I discovered that it was in their 50% off sale, so a bargain £9!  It's a gorgeous print, and very comfortable to wear.  Joy of's a v-neck too!

The real star of the show is these fabulously bright footless tights that I ordered from We Love Colors on Kat's recommendation.  Not only are they beautifully opaque (and thus able to hide a multitude of sins), but you can actually get them in plus sizes!  This may not seem like a big deal, but plus size footless tights in the UK are only available in ubiquitous slimming black which leaves ladies blessed with substantial legs, like me, looking longingly at the pretty-pretty while morosely taking the boring and safe black tights to the till.  I bought a bright and cheerful green as well as scarlet, so as soon as I find the perfect skirt I'm going to have loads of fun!  (PS You'll have to pay Customs Duty on these tights, but I think they're worth it!)

I found these uber-comfy ballet shoes at ASDA.  I didn't expect to get my super-wide trotters in them, but not only did they fit...there was actual comfort involved!  They seem pretty good quality for £6, but for that price I've got no qualms about chucking them in the bin if they fall apart.

I had a great time at the Blog Social; it was lovely to see Louisa again, finally meet Michelle, and to meet loads of lovely new people!  Take a bow, Alex, Sarah and Kim!

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Thursday 5 June 2014

Craft inspiration

Oooh!  Look at this exciting parcel that's just arrived for me!

It's the bundle of craft books that I won in a giveaway from Mathilde heart Manech, a couple of weeks ago.  How very exciting!  Let's unwrap it...

They all look wonderful, but I'm particularly drawn to Just Sew Stories--can't resist a good pun--and Make It and Mend It.  I think I'll spend the afternoon curled up on the sofa, flicking through all these lovely books and sipping coffee.  I'm going to have so much crafty fun with these for inspiration!

Thanks so much, Lisa! xx

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Sunday 1 June 2014

May 2014 in pictures

I can't believe it's June!  How on earth did that happen?  It seems like last week that I was at Blogtacular, but no, after checking the calendar several times it turns out that it really is June.

I've got a fun month ahead...the South West Blog Social is on Saturday and I'm meeting up with Louisa and Michelle which will be awesome.  I'm also painting pottery with the WI and thinking about entering a cake into the local show.  Always wanted to do that...

Here's to a fabulous (and sunny) June!!

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