Onwards and upwards

As most of you know, I’ve been toying with the idea of giving the whole ‘design’ thing a proper go for a while now. I’ve taken the leap, handed in my notice and will be working part time alongside setting up my children’s clothing line – Lovesay and Mo.

 Next week marks my penultimate week at Laura Ashley and although it’s a relief to not have to face the daily (at least) 90 minute commute, I will be super sad to say goodbye to the lovely LA ladies. I’d like to just say thank you to all all for being so wonderful!

Now feels like the right time to be making this decision, and you never know unless you try, right?! I’m absolutely terrified at the prospect of taking a huge paycut, and will probably have to resort to being a bit of a hermit for the next few months at least. But hopefully in the long run it’ll be worth it, and the millions will start rolling in…..!!!

Bring it on

Xx

Making sense of January

I feel like this post should be titled ‘Making sense of January/my life’. I know it’s such a cliche but even this morning I still had no idea what the day/date was. Christmas and New Year is such a muddle of long relaxing days and loads of food and booze that I have really found it hard to keep up! I’ve been reading a lot of ‘new year, new start’ blogs where people list  their resolutions, hopes and dreams for the year ahead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all great but I feel it’s sometimes a little bit fake. For me the start of a new year is always an exciting concept, but it’s also a time I use to reflect on the last 365 days that seemed to have vanished into thin air. Most importantly it’s always the time of year I seem to analyse my life. I came across my old blog the other day and this was posted just after I finished uni. Although it was 2 years ago, in some ways I don’t think I’ve moved very far from the person I was then…

”The festive period is always time for reflection; for remembering the good times, the mistakes, the memories, the friends we made, the things we achieved, the people we met, and most importantly those who are no longer around. It is a time to enjoy family and friends, and to look forward to the new year ahead. Things change as we grow up – our friendship groups go through cycles and we realise who we really want to be spending time with and who we can do without. Family perhaps becomes less important, and then within a few years we realise how fundamental they are to our sanity and most importantly to who we are. We start to realise that the real world isn’t hunky dory, and that it is in fact damn hard work…

It sounds like I am being very negative about it all but I have found the transition into ‘adulthood’ rather difficult. This Christmas was the first I have not woken up early with my brother, examining our stockings before falling back to sleep. It was pretty tough for both of us, yet something that had to happen at some point! I have begun to realise that the little things in life really are the most important. Yesterday I came across a Welsh world ‘hiraeth’ which I believe sums up the feeling of all of this. It is apparently ‘a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.”

I would like to reiterate that although this all sounds a bit doom and gloom, I am not being the Scrooge of New Year! I am extremely lucky to live the life I do, to be surrounded by the love, family and friends that I am. I know I said the whole resolutions thing sounds fake and same same, but I do have just one aim for 2017 – to be happy. There are a few immediate changes that need to be made to achieve this, primarily my job! Next week marks my 2 year anniversary with Laura Ashley and although I enjoy my job, I really miss designing. So I actually have two aims for the year – the second being to launch my own business. To do this I need time that I currently don’t have so a job change is essential to give it a real go…

I’d really like to finish on a POSITIVE note, so would just like to quote an inspirational young woman who unfortunately lost her battle with cancer a couple of years ago:

‘When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, give life 1000 reasons to smile…’

So I’m going to wish you all a VERY happy new year, may your 2017 be filled with laughter, happiness, health and contentment.

xxxxx

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Christmas comes to the Hobbit Hole

Those of you who have been to our house will know how compact it is. Those of you who haven’t I can tell you now – it’s pretty small. When we were looking to move in together I was just excited to have some space to ourselves, and quickly came to the realisation that our budget wasn’t going to get us very much. After a few viewings of stinky cat poo flats and being turned down for a house because ‘two people cause more wear and tear on a property than one’, I received a notification for a lovely little 2 bed cottage in Nailsworth and immediately called the estate agent.

Just over 2 years later and we are still here, in our cosy little Hobbit Hole. I have had a few battles with myself over needing certain pieces of furniture, or an extra set of plates, or multiple sale buy rugs at work and the boring and sensible side seems to have taken over. We absolutely do not have the space. Of course there was the Ercol rocking chair that was a steal at £20 and is now residing in my parents garage, and the set of vintage dining chairs that are holed up in the shed. Until we have the space to use them!

So yes, I have managed to control my love for buying ‘ornaments’ (the general word Dan has given to any little trinket, cushion, or piece of wall art I purchase) until we can afford a slightly bigger house. Unfortunately even Christmas can’t be an exception as I have filled almost every nook and cranny. But my job has taught me that it’s easy to bring festivities into any space no matter the size, so I thought I would share a few photos with you of how easy it can be to add a splash of Christmas into your small home.

First step was of course the Christmas tree. In previous years we have been mocked for our small bushy trees (which I will admit I use to take offence to) so this year decided we would buy one a little bigger than usual, settling on a Nordman Fir from Jolly Nice, mostly down to the whole experience being quite magical – with the rows and rows of festoon lights and the warming glow of the yurt, fire smoke spiralling from it’s chimney. If you’ve not been here yet I HIGHLY recommend it any time of the year – not just Christmas! They serve the BEST burgers we have ever had, and the scotch eggs and sausage rolls are pretty magical too!

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The first year we were in the house I went pretty crazy with buying decorations. I’ve tried to resist buying more but the odd one or two has made it’s way into the collection! I’ve also decided to do a bit of a decoration cull this year and get rid of some of the ones I don’t particularly like anymore. I can’t quite believe my taste has changed so drastically in 3 years…or perhaps I was literally panic buying the first year!

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I found some beautiful metal hoops in Domestic Science and couldn’t think of a reason (I would be allowed!!) to buy them! Luckily with a bit of Pinterest intervention I decided I’d use them to make some miniature wreaths. After foraging for ivy, holly and ewe I whipped up some miniature wreaths to hang around the living room.

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I’ve had this vase of pussy willow for about 18 months and I have absolutely no idea how it hasn’t shrivelled up and died. I found some absolute bargain onion shape baubles in Wilkos and thought they would be perfect to jazz up the pussy willow! I’ve also been looking for some teeny tiny fairy lights to add a bit of sparkle but am yet to find any delicate enough….The Christmas tree and reindeer were gifts from a lovely lady I work with.

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Finally, my Mum has a really eclectic selection of Christmas deccies she’s collected over the years; old cake toppers, homemade decorations, vintage pieces and such….I absolutely love it when she digs them out f the cupboards, and this year I found the start of my very own collection. These guys were in the cook shop in Cirencester and immediately reminded me of Mum’s funny little decorations. Dan obviously asked ‘what on earth are you going to do with those?’. Well, put them with a sparkly star by the Hendricks candle holder, of course!

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So that’s pretty much the extent of my Hobbit Christmas…so far at least!!

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That time we went to Brighton

If Bristol was to have a lovechild with a Cornish coastal town, I’m pretty sure Brighton would be the result. I’d heard Brighton was a hub for culture of all forms, but wasn’t expecting it to be quite so visually exciting. Every street and corner seemed to house a gallery, cafe, bar, wall of graffiti or row of colourful houses. The girls from Uni were the perfect companions to explore a city so rich with art and design. We don’t see each other often, and this was actually only the second time we’ve managed to coordinate our lives since finishing Uni a couple of years ago, but I always look forward to my time with these wonderful ladies!

I took charge of booking accommodation – our budget provided a limited selection which resulted in a rather average ‘hotel’. That’s all I’ll say about it for now, but it did the job! One of the girls came armed with a list of places to visit – mostly food orientated! It guided us to ‘Food for Friends’ on Friday evening – the most incredible (and actually possibly only!!!) vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to. Considering we arrived after 9.30 without a reservation, the staff gave us a warm welcome and guided us to a table. The menu selection was difficult – everything looked and smelt so delicious! I opted for a strawberry lager to drink, then shared a haloumi and mushroom burger, and ravioli sent from heaven. It was open ravioli with a Brighton blue cheese sauce, roasted butternut squash, baby spinach, courgette and walnuts. It was one of those meals you never want to end! I didn’t even get a photo of it! Dessert was a molten chocolate pudding with strawberries, ice cream and crushed pistachios. Also delicious but I began to regret it on the walk back to the ‘hotel’!!!

We woke up to a rather miserable Saturday morning – not quite the crisp Autumn day we’d hoped to be spending on the beach! Nevertheless we wrapped up and headed out into the wet,misty air (after a brief disagreement with the ‘hotel’ manager about requesting a discount to make up for the dirty room we had slept in – the answer was no!). The Breakfast Club was our chosen destination for breakfast – I would quite happily have spent all day in the 80s world of flamingoes, clashing tiles and disco music. The girls opted for pancakes and I immediately regretted my decision of Eggs Royale – but I wasn’t disappointed!

Leaving the warmth and dryness of the 80s behind us, we spent a couple of hours meandering around The Lanes. Going from the old to new part was like stepping from Diagon Alley straight into Camden. Brighton really is such a beautifully diverse place! I couldn’t believe the amount of graffiti we saw – and not the hastily scrawled ‘Fuck the World’ or the ‘S’ shapes we used to draw everywhere at school – but carefully considered works of art. Most pieces were tucked away down side streets, or tastefully positioned in a more open area but it all just worked. None of it looked tacky or like it has ruined the rural landscape – it had become part of it. I’ve always been fascinated by graffiti artists and their ability to create amazing pieces from just a few cans of coloured aerosol!

After exhausting the masses of galleries and shops selling absolutely everything you could possibly want, we hit the pub for a pint before making our way to Patterns via the pier. Some quick obligatory pier photographs followed some overpriced and bizarre tasting crepes later we entered the wintery Narnia world created at Patterns for the festive period. I believe on a regular day it triples up as a bar/restaurant/club, but on this day it was hosting a lino printing session. Unfortunately we were too late to buy tickets, but were able to enjoy a few cocktails in the wintery world of Narnia before battling through the rows of fur coats and back out into the wet and cold.

Dinner was a mildly bizarre experience. We did in fact have dinner in da club. After discovering The Tempest as one of the places to visit in Brighton, we decided upon dining at The Crab Claw at the Tempest. It was an unusual experience. The building was pretty cool and was along the beach front, built under the roads that run above the beach. It reminded me a little of the clubs in Bath most of which are underground. The food was good but it was weird eating whilst the bar was full of Jaeger bombing hipsters!

Having originally wanted to stay at The Artists Residence (unfortunately bank balances didn’t agree!) we at least wanted to sample their renowned cocktail menu. I have never spent so long deciding on a drink – the menu was incredible and full of deliciously enticing ingredients! Two ‘Lucy in the Sky’s’ arrived with fluffy clouds of candy floss and I had a ‘Green Tea Phone Home’. Perhaps the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had – a dusky pink glass full of joy! One day when I’m earning a little more money I would love to head back here to stay for a couple of nights – you almost wanted a day just to explore the building!

Sunday was typically beautiful. Due to trains leaving at around 1 we only had the morning to explore – but we absolutely made the most of it! Breakfast again was yummy, and fuelled us ready for a morning of beach walking and pier fun! After not winning millions on the 2p machines, the rides were calling. I was more than happy with a few rounds on the merry go round but instead we opted for the not so Haunted House. It was fun though. Not content with the thrills of our trip through the house, the Rollercoaster was calling us. I was not anticipating the fear I felt whilst on the smallest roller coaster I’ve ever seen. Being sat on the outer side, it felt like we were going to fly off the rails and straight into the sea at every corner! I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time – not since we bounced our way around the Bumper Car track in our first year of Uni!

The giggles and happy tears inducing roller coaster ride was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend away with some of the loveliest girls I know. Please let’s not leave it so long next time ladies, what a hoot!

PS…I took far too many photos so here’s a few more to share with you all…

 

 

Matcha, dumplings,walks and dislocations

I’ve really been trying to gather my life into some sort of routine – getting up at the same time daily etc to try and maximise productivity and make the most of every day! So far I am not doing too well at organising everything, but this is a new week so I’m going to REALLY try now! One thing I do need to work on is this blog. Before I started blogging I would read others and wonder why they only post once or twice a week, if that. Now I totally understand. I now retract my ‘I’m going to blog everyday’ statements. Fully. And I apologise for being to naive! So this is a little late, but here goes…

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Last weekend was full of promises of wonderful treats. I set of to Bath early Saturday morning to drop Dan at jiujitsu (I’m not entirely sure that’s how it’s spelt!?!) and made my way into town to visit some of my favourite shops. I went to Uni in Bath and lived there for a year so it’s a town full of nostalgia. I’ve said before I think it’s one of the only cities in the UK I would happily live in. I managed to mooch around Anthropologie and Hay before receiving a phone call from Dan to inform me he was in A&E with a dislocated shoulder. For a split second I was angry he had ruined my shopping trip (selfish cow I know!!) then I quickly felt guilty rushed to the car park to head to the hospital.

We had planned to visit Comins Tea Shop and after a couple of hours in A&E decided it would be a great way to chill and for Dan to relax a little after his morning’s antics! We met the owner at Abergavenny Food Festival and he introduced us to Matcha Green Tea – my new fave! Comins is all about the whole experience of tea drinking, and is not your typical tea and bun cafe. Each tea is served in its traditional teapot and receptacle, and comes with a timer and a flask of hot water (the temperature of water is again different depending on the tea). I first went for the Matcha – a fine powder which is sifted before being whisked into hot water in a small bowl. I won’t lie it looks a little bit like frothy pond water, but it’s such a deliciously fresh tea – and bang on trend! Dan had a Green Sencha which was served in a Japanese Kyusu teapot. We ordered some Japanese dumplings to go with our tea – the perfect accompaniment! I would recommend Comins to any tea lover – and in fact to anyone who is open to trying something different!

Our Sunday morning plans weren’t affected by Dan’s accident and we headed to Westonbirt Arboretum. The colours haven’t quite turned yet so we will be visiting again in the next couple of weeks for the gorgeous orange and red glows! One thing we weren’t expecting was the new treetop bridge. I’d read about it but because we haven’t visited for so long we hadn’t yet seen it. The bridge is pretty amazing and far longer than we anticipated. It was absolutely full of people though so it will be nice to go back at a quieter time. Westonbirt is such a beautifully maintained arboretum and I can’t wait for the Autumn and Winter events there!

Some friends of ours – Will and Kat – recently took over the Royal Oak in Leighterton. They’ve spent the summer stripping the pub back, redecorating, sanding, varnishing, building and accessorising, and Sunday afternoon was the first time we got to fully experience their hard work. They have done such a beautiful job to create a warm and welcoming feel – a traditional yet contemporary country pub. The selection of ales and cider has been as carefully considered as the decor, with a range of local Uley ales and Black Rat cider and perry among them. The Sunday menu was impressive and I opted for the tomato and mozzarella arancini, roast beef and bake well tart. The food was absolutely incredible, and the beef quite possibly the BEST I’ve ever had! I urge you all to pay the pub a visit – you will not be disappointed!!

I find the best way to help a big meal settle is an afternoon stroll. After gaining directions from a local farmer, we set off across the fields of Leighterton for a brisk walk to try and burn off some of the thousands of calories we had consumed!! I’ve never really explored the area before but in the early evening light it was absolutely stunning! Even more of a reason for you to go and visit the Royal Oak!

Center Parcs

I had a school friend who’s family would regularly head to Center Parcs for weekend breaks. I was always envious of the stories about cycling through the woods, whizzing down water slides and gliding through the rapids. Don’t get me wrong – I had a wonderful childhood and we went on plenty of holidays but I felt like I was missing out on the magic of Center Parcs. So earlier this year when my parents offered to take us – along with my brother, his girlfriend and their baby – to Longleat for a long weekend, I (at 25) obviously didn’t hesitate to say YES PLEASE!!

Upon arriving, I was mildly disappointed we had to park up in the car park until 3pm – when the barrier opens and the race is on to locate your cabin. However I soon began to appreciate the ‘no parking’ policy within the grounds – you can drive to your cabin to unload, but then all cars must be left at the car park until your day of departure. This means everyone travels by one of three ways – foot, bike or the land train (similar to those little trains you get at the beach in the summer).

We were staying in a Superior lodge in ‘Oak’ – at the bottom of the site and far enough away from the hustle and bustle to feel pleasantly secluded. The lodge was surrounded by Redwoods and Scot’s Pines and I felt like I was in a forest in Canada! Each bedroom had an ensuite, and we even had an Infrared room – a bit like a sauna but it warms you from the inside out (i’m not totally sure of the science behind it but apparently it’s almost as effective as exercise!)

We did discover that it is totally worth taking a food shop with you (or picking one up on the way). The onsite supermarket was a little pricey and heading out to the local Morrisons meant we had to rejoin the queue to get back in. Lesson learnt!

After settling in and filling the cupboards, we didn’t waste any time and cycled straight up to the ‘Plaza’ and spent an hour or so exploring the pools, slides and rapids. I think over the whole weekend the rapids were my favourite thing to do! We had been advised to book in a few activities before we went, so signed up for miniature golf on Saturday, an afternoon in the Aqua Sana (spa) for the girls on Sunday and bowling on monday. The golf was pretty fun and we played two different courses. I find the less you try with miniature golf the better you tend to be! My Mum was an absolute whizz!

Saturday afternoon took us to the Jardin des Sports where we played tennis. I used to be quite good as a child…or so I thought. The Venus Williams in me seemed to be recovering from Rio that weekend – my tennis was utter crap. I left the boys to it and spent some time watching my nephew with Mum. One of the best things about the weekend was spending time with Oscar. Even at just 3 months old it’s incredible how quickly he is changing, and you notice small differences every day. I feel truly blessed to be Aunt to such a beautiful baby boy.

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Sunday morning was spent in the trees. Literally. Me and Dan booked the ‘Aerial Adventure’ session – a series of high ropes and obstacles set in the trees just next to the lake. The course ended with a zip wire that meant you sped right over the length of the lake. It was awesome. I had one wobbly moment but adrenaline urged me on, and the zip wire made it totally worth it! I left my brother as photographer and think he did pretty well! Although a harness and gym leggings is never going to be a hot look!

Having decided to save money on food by cooking ourselves, we did agree we should visit The Pancake House once during our stay. It was amazing. I went for a full on fatty breakfast of pancakes with banana, toffee and chocolate sauces and cream. Totally the best decision I made that day.

Sunday afternoon was spa time for us girls. The range of saunas and steam rooms was epic; they had different temperatures, different aromas, different essential oils, different lighting, different seating, different sounds. We all left feeling positively chilled and relaxed (and a little tipsy after prosecco and mojitos!).

The weekend left us all absolutely exhausted. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was so wonderful to spend time with Dan and my family – and to share Oscar’s first holiday! I would thoroughly recommend a stay at Center Parcs and would like to thank my parents for such a fun filled weekend!

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival is an event I welcome warmly. The summer is always full of wonderful events, long evenings, sunshine, family and friends and fun days out. As soon as September begins, reality sets in that that’s it for another year, and it’s time to brace ourselves for the shorter days of Autumn and Winter. So unsurprisingly the event softens the blow a little, and offers a small extension of the buzz and festival feel of the summer.

We woke up to blue skies and a fresh breeze on the Saturday morning, signs of a good day ahead. With the roof down we took the scenic route over to Wales, making the most of the unexpectedly glorious weather. I have never actually been to Abergavenny on a non-festival day so to me the town is always a hive of activity, bustling with people from all walks of life. I don’t really want to imagine it any other way!

This year we booked on to two masterclasses. The first was with Malaysian chef and Food Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur – Norman Musa. His Manchester restaurant ‘Ning’ is also a base for his cookery school. We were guided through a live demonstration of a few recipes from Norman’s new cookbook ‘Amazing Malaysia’ followed by a sample of the food at the end. Dan and I both love the simplicity and freshness of Asian food, and the lightness of it compared to traditional British dishes. The combinations of spices and fresh ingredients always results in a deliciously clean bowl of food.

The second masterclass was with Eleonora Galasso, who again led us through a few traditional Italian recipes from her new book ‘As the Romans do’. A lot of Italian cooking seems to be based around using up ingredients and making sure leftovers never go to waste. Having spent some time in Milan a couple of years ago we learnt just how important food is to the Italians and how eating and meal times are an occasion rather than just a necessity. The process of cooking and eating becomes an enjoyable event rather than a chore and is always a social yet chilled affair.

We try to sample and buy foods at the festival that we don’t normally eat, or things that we wouldn’t necessarily cook ourselves. Our first purchase this year was a bottle of Champonzu from The Wasabi Company, a sauce made from 5 Japanese citrus fruits and that can be used as a dressing, marinade or dipping sauce. The guys were so friendly and we learnt a lot about Wasabi! They grow and sell the plant here in the UK, a product that is so much more delicious than the Wasabi you buy in the supermarket. The taste is a lot cleaner, the texture much creamier. We also bought a jar of Eastern Meditteranean inspired Pomegranate Ketchup from Aphrodites, something I cannot wait to use! Again it can be used as a sauce or a marinade, and has a depth of taste so much richer than that of tomato ketchup. I also fell in love with the company’s branding!!

One of the things I love about Abergavenny is the vast range of unusual products and flavours. I am a bit of a fiend when it come to truffle, so just had to try the stilton and truffle honey macaroon from La Cave a Fromage – it was perhaps my favourite combination of flavours from the whole day! Absolutely delicious! The food festival seemed the perfect opportunity to sample some Sake – the Japanese alcohol made from fermented rice. The lady on the stall was so welcoming and selected the ‘perfect sake’ for us after a few simple questions. It really was scrummy – so lightly refreshing and sweet! We will definitely be having a glass or two next time we go for sushi!

My favourite part of the day is heading to the market hall where there is always an amazing aerial display. This year there were beautifully stitched human sized owls suspended from the ceiling. They were so incredibly life like, with some even clutching on to equally stunning mice, and others perched on branches or captured mid-flight.

With full bellies (and a full rucksack!) we headed home with the sun setting on Abergavenny Food Festival for another year. I am already looking forward to the Christmas market in December..!

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