Friday 31 July 2015

Month In Pictures: July

Here we are again, the end of another month.  It's hard to believe that we've had almost two weeks of the summer holidays already! (I've even managed a whole day Without Getting Cross.  Parents, you know how big a deal that is during the endless holidays!)

So July was pretty cool...

Top: The month kicked off with Bristol Pride. I've never seen the parade before, so we watched it from Dave's office window which gave us a great view. Where on earth do people get these huge flags?! 

Two willow whales have taken up residence in Millennium Square for the summer, The ocean they're swimming in is made of plastic bottles and bubblewrap, collected after the Bristol 10k.  It's a beautiful piece of art, with a big message behind it.

July also saw me baking my first (and last) wedding cake.  I was honoured to do it, and so thrilled that the happy couple loved it, but I was a nervous wreck by the end of it.  I'll stick to making fun cakes for the family that I can plaster with flowers to hide mistakes!


Middle: The Bristol leg of the Shaun in the City trail started this month.  While I find Shaun tremendously irritating--Gromit is just lovely though--I've still really enjoyed hunting down each Shaun with Dave and Lucas.  I'm hoping that we'll get a few more next weekend!

We seem to be spending loads of time at the Harbourside this summer. Last year we were all about Tyntesfield, but this year the marina and the brightly-painted houses have caught our eye.  This pic was taken on the same day as Pride, when there was a small regatta in the floating harbour.  Lush!

My partners in crime being 100% them. They're totally bonkers but in the best way possible.  Love 'em.


Bottom: I splashed out on one of my favourite Gromits from the trail two years ago. Shipshape and Bristol Fashion now lives on my Welsh dresser and is often joined by a bunch of peonies.  I love them, even though they don't always open.  I could be doing something wrong, though??

We've spent rather a lot of time at Friska this month.  I might have a slight addiction to their dirty chai, but that's okay as all their food is dead healthy and delicious.  It all balances out, I'm sure!!

Lucas and I went to the aquarium and found Nemo.  He was right there in the tank (along with Dorie and the yellow tang whose name escapes me).  I bet lots of other aquariums have a Nemo tank...


In August I'm looking forward to our summer holiday in Cornwall.  We're going to a different farm this year as our usual one was booked solid--although yay for our favourite place doing so well!  I need to unearth my swimming costume as it has a pool.  Farm holidays have certainly changed since the days of the Famous Five!!

There'll be pasties, cider and far too much ice-cream, plus fresh eggs collected by Lucas.  Should be awesome.

Talking of ice-cream, I keep hearing about a gelateria on Baldwin Street. I must go and look for it... I haven't had real gelato since we went to Venice for our first anniversary,

So how was your July?


Thursday 30 July 2015

Taking Stock

My ohana
Tonight feels like a good time to take stock... Lucas is fast asleep upstairs, I'm at one with the sofa, and on the other side of the world in Australia Dave is just waking up. It's been very cool to see pictures of his morning run past the Sydney Opera House, but I'm totally ready for him to come home now!
  • Making : a gorgeously textured crochet blanket.  If only it was big enough to cover my toes!
  • Cooking: I knocked up a gorgeous Italian style sausage and lentil dish for dinner.  The house will smell of garlic for days but it was totally worth it!
  • Drinking: berry iced tea from Friska.  We've been to Friska three times this week, they must think I've given up on cooking!
  • Reading: issue one of The Rivers of London comic.  When it was first announced I didn't like the character drawings of PC Peter Grant, but in action (as it were) he looks perfect.
  • Wanting: a big, squishy hug.
  • Looking: forward to the weekend.
  • Playing: Criminal Case. I'm addicted.
  • Wasting: time. {See playing.}
  • Sewing: nothing...yet. I did buy a gorgeous jellyroll to make a giant floor cushion though.  Lucas seems to prefer lying on the floor to sitting on the sofa,
  • Wishing: for more energy. And a housework fairy.
  • Enjoying: watching Downton Abbey. It's taken me a very long time to get into it, but I'm now loving it!
  • Waiting: for Dave to come home on Sunday.  This might necessitate a cake...
  • Wondering: how early Lucas is going to wake me in the morning!  He's better than a cockerel.
  • Loving: my little family.
  • Hoping: for sunshine tomorrow.
  • Marvelling: at the beautiful sets and costumes on Downton Abbey.
  • Needing: a good night's sleep.
  • Smelling: garlic wafting through the house. We shall be a vampire-free zone for quite a while.  What can I say?  I'm a giver.
  • Wearing: PJs and a cardigan for extra warmth.  While I don't miss sweltering evenings, it would be nice not to have to wrap up!
  • Noticing: the apples getting bigger by the day on the not-so-little apple tree.
  • Thinking: about what book to read next.  I've got The Ocean at the End of the Lane in the virtual pile, along with a stack of Robin Hobb books.
  • Bookmarking: Wordpress tutorials.  Finally getting around to the big switch from Blogger to Wordpress!
  • Opening: lots and lots of tabs in my browser.  I do like to research thoroughly!
  • Giggling: at Lucas's bad jokes.
  • Feeling: Lucky and loved.


Monday 27 July 2015

...And They Lived Happily Ever After

Wedding cake with Swiss dots and large flower

Last week I was honoured (and very surprised) to be asked to bake a wedding cake.  My sister-in-law asked me to make a cake for her friends who were getting married this week as she'd just discovered they didn't have one.  Awww, how lovely is she?

Now, I've made big cakes, small cakes, ridiculously layered cakes--really want to make another Dobos Torta--a 3D raccoon, and a couple of stacked cakes, but never a wedding cake.  So baking this wedding cake was not something I undertook lightly.  There are so many emotions tied up within a wedding cake, you've got to get it right.  I was a nervous wreck by the time I was done.

I sketched out a few ideas and settled on a simple but hopefully pretty design.  (Loving playing with my chalkboard; I get to feel all artistic.  Luckily for everyone, I bake better than I draw.)  As I'm currently in love with peonies and the wedding colours were to be white and baby pink, I thought I'd have a go at making a simplified one to grace the top tier.

Chalkboard sketch of my wedding cake design

I'd love to say that this cake went smoothly, but as with all things that you care rather too much about, nerves played their part.  My fingers were less than nimble at times and the cake isn't the flawless beauty I'd imagined.  But what I think doesn't matter: Emily and AJ were thrilled with their cake and as luck would have it, the flower I created looked exactly like one of the flowers adorning Emily's dress!  (I'm going to ride the wave of these burgeoning psychic powers and buy a lottery ticket.)

Congratulations Emily and AJ, I hope you have many happy years together!

And should anyone ever be crazy enough to take on a wedding cake, here are my top tips...

Top tips

Make a timetable.  Work backwards from when the cake needs to be ready and add an hour on to each stage of the cake to give yourself a nice contingency cushion. Just in case things go wrong.  (I had sufficient time left to bake another tier of the cake if necessary.)

Use a tried and tested recipe.  I used Lindy Smith's madeira cake recipe which I've been using successfully for the last three years.  (I go the whole hog and wrap the tin up in newspaper as well as having a tin of water on the floor of the oven.  Works a treat.)

Use a cake leveller.  And use it properly. Level each tier to the same height, then as you cut the cake into layers cut each tier before changing the height on the leveller again. This will make your cake look very professional when cut!

Don't use new-to-you items.  I used a different brand of fondant icing, in the name of saving money, and regretted it.  It changed colour overnight and then my ribbon didn't match and it was all very traumatic.


Monday 13 July 2015

Le Weekend

Bristol harbourside, looking across to Hotwells

The rain is pitter-pattering against the window as I type; it's hard to believe that we had such a glorious weekend, but we totally did!

We spent Saturday pottering around the Harbourside in town, sort-of following the Shaun the Sheep trail and basking in the sunshine.  I'm a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to the sun, it can't be too hot or too cold, it has to be just right.

Bristol was super-busy this weekend, with Pride, Grillstock--it smelled so good--sheep hunters galore, and a regatta.  It was manic, frankly, but the city was so happy and buzzing that no one seemed to care.

Bristol Pride parade 2015

We watched the Pride parade from Dave's office window which gave us a great view of all the goings on.  So much colour, music, and happiness.  It was lovely to see Avon & Somerset police out, waving rainbow flags and sporting very natty rainbow epaulettes on their uniforms.  And no Pride parade would be complete without some very sassy drag queens and stilt walkers!  So much sparkle!

Beach Boy, BAA-WULF, Green Poems for a Blue Planet, Life Aquatic
Beach Boy, BAA-WULF, Green Poems for a Blue Planet, Life Aquatic 

After the parade left Queen Square, we set off on our sheep hunt.  I highly advise picking up a paper map from the tourist information office, the Aardman shop at The Mall (and I'm sure there are other locations, too) as the Shaun in the City app is a bit flaky when it comes to route planning.  Luckily we had Dave, who seems to be part carrier pigeon and never steers us wrong!

Water fountain with street art in Millennium Square
Love this water fountain in Millenium Square!
Air Fleece, Dolly, King Arthur of Lambelot and Excalibaaar, On the Waterfront
Air Fleece, Dolly, King Arthur of Lambelot and Excalibaaar, On the Waterfront
Some beauts on this section of our walk.  King Arthur was fantastic!  I wonder if it was the same artist who did Sir Gromit of Bristol?  We're still trying to estimate how many glass drops are covering Dolly!

Catch of the Day, a mermaid Shaun
Catch of the Day, the new figurehead for Bristol Ferries
We were lucky to spot Catch of the Day, the new figurehead for Bristol Ferries replacing their mini-Gromit.  I love his/her mermaid design, complete with seaweed lovingly twined around the ankles. (Do sheep have ankles?)

Jarsberry Ram, Sgt. Shepherd, Lotus, Baaarbersheep
Jarsberry Ram, Sgt. Shepherd, Lotus, Baaarbersheep
The Pump House sported another berry-licious sheep. This time, raspberry flavoured with Jarsberry Ram.  (I hope they bring out a tea towel for him to go along with my Gromberry one!)  We cooled down inside with a drink--it's lovely and cool inside on a hot day, perks of the proper stone walls, I guess--before crossing the river and weaving our way through teams of rowers to find Sgt. Shepherd.

Further downstream we found Lotus outside Aardman's headquarters which was absolutely gorgeous, with lots of hidden details.  I was especially fond of the tai chi poses on each leg.  Peek through the windows and admire their giant Shaun which almost fills the lobby!

Baarbersheep behind the M Shed had it's own farmyard enclosure, complete with haybales (hayfever sufferers beware) and had some gorgeous hand-lettering done by Gav Strange.

Banksy's Girl With A Pearl Earring
It's not a walk round Bristol without a Banksy! Girl with a Pearl Earring

The Pirate Captain, Shaun Beam, King of the Carnival, Justice Lamb
The Pirate Captain, Shaun Beam, King of the Carnival, Justice Lamb
Here are our last few Shauns of the day.  The Pirate Captain was just awesome.  I loved that film!  I'm really not so sure about Shaun Beam. We originally thought that it was something to do with Shaun Bean, but apparently it's inspired by a sculpture in Chicago known as 'the Bean'.  I'm still not sure if I like it... Justice Lamb was great, though!

And lastly, my favourite photo from the day.  I've actually splashed out and ordered it on canvas for the living room wall, that's how much I love it.  And him, too, obvs.  Can't believe he's nearly nine...

Lucas at the Harbourside
Lucas at the Harbourside


Friday 10 July 2015

Friday Favourites, volume 2

It's been so long since I've done Friday Favourites, but it just had to be done this week as I have seen so many most excellent things.  This is likely to be a bit of a sporadic series, all dependent on what wonders I see each week.

So, without further ado, here are some of the things I've loved this week...

Favourite Instagrammer Allison Sadler
© This Little Space of Mine
I am loving Allison Sadler's Instagram feed. I met Allison last year at Blogtacular and her Instagram is a perfect reflection of her personality. It's full of positive, sparkly, bright, happy and beautiful things.   There's always something to make you smile!  One day I'll make it to one of her #makeitsewcial events!

Favourite Handmade Popsicle Bunting

This amazing popsicle (ice-lolly) bunting is by Bees and Apple Trees (a name I thoroughly approve of!) via Allison Sadler's Instagram.  I made some 2D ice-cream and seaside bunting last summer and had dreadful problems with it curling up and refusing to hang nicely, despite blocking. This weightier version looks like it resolves that problem neatly and it looks fantastic to boot!  I've got my yarn, a crochet hook and a pair of sunglasses...hit it!

Favourite Food Arla Skyr

I first had Skyr in America, over five years ago.  I fell in love with the thick, creamy Icelandic yoghurt (which is actually cheese, but when it tastes this good, who cares what it technically is?) and loved that it was naturally fat-free.  Since then I've been trying (and failing) to be in London when the Scandinavian Kitchen had some of this rare beast in stock,  Imagine my surprise when I found a taster stand in my local Sainsbury's last week!  I've been gorging on it ever since; the natural flavour is perfect as a replacement for sour cream in potato salad or on fajitas, and the honey is glorious.  It's very Slimming World friendly, too.

Favourite Geekery The new Doctor Who trailer!!

Coming to our screens on the 19th of September!!  Really looking forward to it, and I'm ever so curious about Arya Stark's character in this.  Could this finally be Susan??

Favourite Tutorial Pretty Handlettering in 3 Steps

© In My Own Style
I came across this tutorial on Pinterest yesterday afternoon--loving their suggested pins--and since then I've been happily doodling away.  My regular handwriting is doctor levels of terrible these days, and I always feel a bit envious when a beautifully penned card pops through the letterbox, so being able to create some beautiful lettering easily is a wonder to me!  It really does work.  I'm quite stunned at how nice my handwriting can look, especially as I'm just using an old biro at the moment. (Must raid Lucas's pencil case!)

All I need now is an upcoming birthday, wedding or baby to show off my handiwork!


Have a fabulous Friday and an awesome weekend!


Saturday 4 July 2015


Shaun In The City starts in two days, on the 6th. Hooray!  It's felt like an absolute age since the London flock got rounded up by the farmer; we have been waiting quite impatiently to get our sheep spotting on.

Now, the trail officially starts on the 6th, but a few Shauns have started stealthily getting into position around the city following Nick Park's parade across the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  The lovely folks at Warmley Waiting Room welcomed their Shaun yesterday and there are three early bird Shauns at The Mall!


Shrek Shaun

"Beware, ogre."
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I only have pictures of two; I'm afraid I was too lazy to go and track down the third, but I shall triumph another day!

The 'Shaun Shop' is also hosting an exhibition of mimi Shaun's decorated by local schools, so there's plenty to admire as excitement builds for Monday!

Our school's mini Shaun is still busy being decorated but I'm sure he would loved to have taken part in the show.  Still, there was a local-ish Shaun--this Special Delivery sheep from Mangotsfield School.

While we were in the Shaun Shop, I decided to treat myself to one of my favourite Gromits from the original trail.  It's taken me two years of dithering to finally get over the price of them!  Shipshape and Bristol Fashion is now happily ensconced on my Welsh dresser.  I wonder which Shaun will join him?!  (Eventually.)

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