Monday, 30 July 2012

Birthday Party

It was my 26th birthday last Wednesday and I had a lovely week including afternoon tea,  dinner in a field (which I'll blog about another day) and culminating in a party on Saturday.

birthday morning
I received so many lovely presents: a microphone from my husband, a drinks dispenser from my mother-in-law and the cast iron pot from my parents. When I got to work, a girl in the lab and her boyfriend had made me a very yummy victoria sponge. Mike and I spent the evening eating sardines, chips and m&ms, drinking cider and watching How I Met Your Mother (we are on an epic race through a borrowed box-set before we leave Oxford).

My party was on Saturday, we used the marquee which belongs to the residents association in the close and had tables for cakes, drinks, games and the TV. I also had a hamper of blankets in case people got cold.

party in a tent

We played lots of board-games, had a bbq (with s'mores at the end) and somebody even went swimming in the river that runs through our village! I spent my birthday money buying burgers, sausages, cake ingredients, drinks and accessories (note the stripey paper straws!) and it was definitely the best way to use that money;  to have lots of friends gathered and [hopefully] having fun - though luckily some people couldn't resist and brought extra cakes and drinks with them including a beautiful dessert wine which Mike and I enjoyed finishing last night and a treacle tart which got eaten up almost straight away. I also got more lovely presents from generous friends including flowers, a cheese-dome, a book and a very pretty sugar pot and milk jug. I am a lucky girl indeed.

In the evening, those of us left over snuggled up and watched the artist in the marquee. I was inspired by the Jubilee party in our close at which we watched kind hearts and coronets during a gale with driving wind and rain. Saturday's weather was much nicer! Mike managed to fall asleep for most of the film but he still had a pretty good idea of the plot by the end.

Special thanks must go to Rach and Andrzej who arrived early to set everything up, brought cake and stayed to help us pack down in the morning.

All in all, it was a lovely way to say goodbye to Oxford and our village and now our hearts are turned towards planning the move. 3 weeks to go.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Family Fun

Worcester College Lake
As well as attempting to house-hunt 60 miles away, we had my parents and aunt visiting, and then Mike's grandma's 80th to go to on Saturday. Aunty Judith had only been to Oxford for our wedding so I took her on a tour of Magdelen College (she liked the deer), the Radcliffe-Camera (we didn't climb st Mary's tower though due to height fear), Worcester College (my old college - the best one) and then to the ashmolean to look at the pre-raphaelite collection. I hadn't been to the Ashmolean since it was re-done, it's SO much better now. 

On Wednesday, Mike and I saw an amazing cottage in napton-upon-hill that I would happily have lived in forever (it had two staircases, fireplaces, and random hallways that turned into rooms). Unfortunately, it was just a bit too expensive and as we ummed and ahhd somebody else took it. They were late to the viewing so we had to race back to Oxford in time for dinner with my parents and aunt at Mamma Mia's. We really like it here: very informal, quick service and yummy huge pizzas. We were buying dinner for the parents for their birthdays but they didn't spend very much (we all shared puddings and no-one was drinking). 
Work Dresses- these are actually the same dress

On Thursday, Mum, Dad and Aunty J took me shopping to Bicester Village for clothes to wear to work next year. I bought two dresses in Jaeger but Mike doesn't like them very much, so I'm taking one back. I think it's hard for me to think about wearing a suit every day, so jersey dresses are a good transition from just wearing jeans to work. Dad did VERY well considering we were there for 5 hours - he was very sweet and full of comments about the dresses. We did the standard 'wow everything here is so expensive' when Aunty J picked up a £6000 handbag, but due to having bad eyes her and dad thought it said £600 (which is still too expensive). I didn't manage to find any shoes or a bag though, so onwards goes the search. 
birthday presents - same colour!

Mike and I had bought beef from the village farm for dinner, it went down very well and was followed by a Nigella Chocolate Guinness cake - my favourite chocolate cake recipe. I also got to open two of my birthday presents, aunty judith and mum hadn't consulted on colour but managed to get the same turqouise. I love the pot so so so so much. It will go with the cream cast iron casserole we have.

Blenheim Palace

Friday was left to go to Blenheim Palace with just the parents since Aunty J was going home (but she actually returned to Bicester Village for more shopping). Mum and Dad and I had a great morning walking the grounds. As ever, the tour of the palace itself is very disappointing (well, the untold story part of it) but the grounds, and the rose garden especially, were impressive. Mike met us in the afternoon for scones and pizza in the caravan before we said goodbye. He also managed to beat mum and I at scrabble - which is frankly ridiculous because I normally get double his score at least and mum is a scrabble ninja (grumble).
trying to get balloons into the carboot

Then on Saturday, we visited a few houses in Leamington Spa before heading off to Bourton-on-the-Water for Mike's grandma's 80th. I didn't enjoy the lunch very much but, most importantly, she did! She even went on the trampoline. I don't see Mike's extended family at all really (I'd only met the aunt and cousins once before, at our wedding) but it was nice to see his grandma so happy that everyone was together.

And that was a busy week, not much work achieved so I have to try hard this week to catch up. We've applied for a house so if that goes through then we don't have to keep driving around Warwickshire for viewings and I can get more done.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Holiday Greeting Cards

I promised that I would show you the card prints we bought on holiday once they were framed. Well, here they are.
Greeting Cards I bought on Holiday
From left to right:

1. Hooked on You - we bought this in Rick Stein's gift shop, it will go with the 'my cup of tea' and 'cake and kisses' cards we have in the kitchen and I just liked the simplicity of it.
2. Flowers by the sea - I bought this to give to someone but I smile every time I see it so it is staying in the office to remind me of holidays. Lovely bright colours.
3. Bicycle - this is very intricate up close, with multiple layers. I'm not sure yet how much I love it to keep but it will be a good one to give to somebody else.
4. Noah's Ark - this was bought to give away when someone has a baby so they can put it in a nursery, all the birds flying over the rainbow are very cute. However, it's possible we don't know anyone who actually would put it on there wall so it may get put away for the future.

I do have a bit of a greeting card obsession, and a growing reputation for giving good cards which increases the pressure! I used to buy notebooks relentlessly and then never use them so at least greeting cards are pretty interchangable in frames for the wall.


Monday, 16 July 2012


So after posting every day about the holidays I had an inspiration rut due to a very monotonous week. We are currently house-hunting in Warwickshire due to me starting a job there in October. Our lease is up in the middle of August and we are looking for a house big enough to contain our furniture with a garage or shed for our bikes, but cheap enough that we can carry on saving to actually buy a house next year. One thing that we have come to also demand is space for our dishwasher (since it's been such a blessing to our marriage time this year). Well, we've seen some absolute horrors! I thought i'd seen bad houses in Oxford but the market is saturated so there is always another option. In Warwickshire, however, there are 500 new Jaguar employees, and nowhere near enough houses. One house we went to see didn't even have a proper kitchen (oh and had a bath full of water in it)! Another had housed dogs who had ripped up the carpets and wee'd on the walls. Unlike in Oxford, it doesn't seem that Landlords have to redecorate or even clean properties either. We have seen 2 ok houses but one had no space upstairs (so you couldn't have even one bedside table) and the other had no space downstairs (not enough for our 3-seater sofa, and nowhere to keep a hoover).

I've checked this website everyday for a month

So on we search. This week we are upping the budget and the search radius (we had both hoped to cycle, but I may have to drive in order to actually find somewhere we can live) to try to find somewhere soon, but my parents and aunt are here which is going to make it difficult.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Cornwall Day 5: Walk and ferry trip & Day 6: Zipline

For the last full day before returning home we didn't fancy using the car so we did an approximation of the Hall Walk, a good 5 miles with 2 ferries and lots of exploring in Fowey.

The views on the first part of the walk were pretty good, up above harbours of Boddinick and Fowey. I was also delighted by this blue house, and being on a boat but the greatest surprise was that Fowey harbour had been yarnbombed! The whole harbour looked lovely as we sat and ate our sandwhiches amongst the tourists.

Fowey contains lots of art and interior shops, there was an especially cute shop which sold handmade ceramics and crochet/knitting. I also bought lots of greeting cards from some of the galleries (since we can't afford the real art). We debated getting a large serving bowl the same as in the cottage, and I fell in love with a quilt. We ended up buying neither, dissuaded by being less than half way around the walk.

We spied a castle in the distance and walked there via the beach. We didn't have the teapot with us because we were planning on going for afternoon tea, but there were a family on the beach making smores and gosh that was inspiring for the future. It was a lovely looking little beach for swimming (and even had this swimming platform), but the weather was a bit too rough for that day (not the waves and the faces above). The castle itself was mostly ruined but I loved the view back to the town through the window.

After freezing (poor husband in shorts) and been blown about, we deserved our afternoon tea at The Dwelling House. The 'gourmet' earl grey was actually not very good (they were loose leaf but ground, not anything like the amazing Adagio Teas Earl Grey). The scones were delicious though! My visit to this tearoom, however, was spoiled by the toilet. I have a recurring nightmare about having to urinate infront of people in a wide open bathroom. Well, the toilet was just in a bedroom, with windows and stuff. I would happily go in that bath if it were, say, on a beach in the middle of nowhere. But that was the toilet to use for all the customers, and I felt really uncomfortable about using it.

Anyway, after a hasty retreat Mike and I bought some bread and some John Dorey from the fishmongers for dinner, and set off on the walk back. This involved getting the passenger ferry to Polruan (yes, this is really the ferry and not an imposter touting for tourist money as my dad assumed). The walk back along the creek was very muggy, and we got lost twice but it was entertaining to end up in the grounds of an abandoned mansion where the ex-owner happened to appear because he was reminiscing about living there and moaning about foreigners buying holiday homes.

Dinner was very yummy, we were inspired to buy a book of seafood techniques.


taken from their website

On the last day, we went home via Adrenalin Quarry - The UK's longest zipline. I consider myself very brave to have done it after the eden project viewing platform, photos on a ledge, and afforementioned toilet fear fiascos - but it was really great! Not too fast but instead serene. Not quite worth all the money they charge but definitely worth a visit.

Coming home on a Saturday meant that by Sunday evening we were relaxed again, and had finished all the laundry and unpacking. At least, we would have been relaxed if I hadn't somehow hurt my back whilst driving over a speedbump which has taken until Friday to heal!

Let me know if you use any of our holiday ideas when you visit Cornwall, or if you too have an irrational fear of toilets or a perfectly valid fear of high places.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Bunny Rabbit Rattle (with pattern)

I saw lots of these on holiday being sold for large amounts of money so decided to make one. This is a prototype which will be given to the next baby or baby bump I find for testing before I amend the pattern.

*amendment 1 - brighter colours

I suck at faces
The head is a flat circle of increases:

round 1: ch 2, 6 sc into 2nd ch from hook
round 2: 2 sc into each (12 sc)
round 3: *2 sc in 1st, 1 sc in 2nd around* (18sc) - change colour
round 4: *2 sc in 1st, 1 sc in 2nd and 3rd* around (24sc)
round 5: *2sc in 1st, 1sc in 2nd:4th* around (30sc)
etc until desired head size is reached
round 10: sc in back loops only around
round 11-13: sc in both loops around
round 14: sc in front loops around
then decrease in the same way as rounds 1:9 changing colours as appropriate and stuffing with a bell and stuffing before you reach the end.

made in the round, no need to stuff

round 1: ch 2, 4 sc into 2nd ch from hook
round 2: 2 sc in each (8 sc)
round 3: sc around
change colours as desired and continue until proportional to head.

made in the round and stuffed tightly

round 1: ch8 and join
round 2: sc in each around (8 sc)
continue until it can fit around your wrist stuffing as you go.
Join together with a needle and then sew to head.

I suck at faces, this is just a mess.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Cornwall Day 4: Lizard Point, Kynance Cove, Coverack Cove and Falmouth

Day 4 was a Revalation of sunshine and blueskies! It was also packed, with lots of photos taken so take a deep breath and make a cup of tea.

We set off down to Lizard point packing the swimming stuff with us *justincase*.
Mullion Cove, see the blue water!

The first stop off was Mullion Cove. It was a very pretty harbour, similar to the ones we'd seen in Skye last year rather than the more commercial ones near Fowey. The water was beautiful. Unfortunately, the photo on the bottom right resulted in a bit of an argument in which I accused Mike of being insensitive to my fear of death by trying to pull me off the edge for a photo. Hugs always make these things better though (I think he got a bit of a shock at how much I freaked out) so on we journeyed to Lizard Point.

We'd rejected Land's End since it was too commercial (and we'd both visited it as children, and we'd visited Great Britain's most westerly point last summer which trumps England's). Lizard point is the most southerly, has a free car park (well, donation carpark) and is home to Ann's pasties (basically a pasty shop in someone's garage). We got the last pasties (apparently one is supposed to phone in advance), luckily I wanted the vegetarian one :)

We were supposed to save our pasties until we got to the point (a mile walk maybe?) to sit and eat them. This did not happen. Each of us snuck a little bit ("just testing how warm it is") until there was none left.

Bottom right, I'm much happier
Lizard point itself was still quite touristy. But this little beach with the old lifeboat station was almost deserted. Mike did some stone skimming, and then we tested my ability to stand near a fence for a photograph.

After some messing around, we set off walking to Kynance cove (total walk from the car to lizard point, kynance cove and back 7 miles). During the walk the sky became more blue, the sun and wind stronger. We were fairly wind and sunburnt by the end of it!

see how sunny!

It was a beautiful walk, along the cliffs with breathtaking views. One issue I have with national trust walks is that they're a bit too easy with well trodden paths, but the view was worth it. We did lots of overtaking of slower couples, but stopped to watch people throwing model aeroplanes from the top of a cliff.

I found the cove itself (supposed most awesome in England) a little disappointing compared to others we'd seen in Scotland. It was also packed, due to having a road down to it and a cafe. However, we were very thirsty so actually the cafe was appreciated (we had no money but they filled up our water bottle).  I think my most perfect cove would be one which was hard to get to and dramatic.The walk back to the car was a very speedy and flat couple of miles. 

Coverack Cove - brr

Since we hadn't gone swimming at the cove, we looked on the map for the nearest bit of sand and set off to Coverack Cove (it was about 4pm by this point so swimming was perhaps a little optimistic). Again there was donation parking. Initially we took nothing with us but since the beach was so quiet, Mike ran back for the camera to capture photos of us galavanting in the sea. I didn't do any actual swimming, but happily ran around splashing (like the smallest children on the beach) and preparing tea and cake for when Mike was done. I also wore a bikini outside for the first time in my life. 

The end of day 4 was a drive to Falmouth to get fish and chips from the Rick Stein takeaway. We'd highly anticipated these fish and chips, eschewing others on previous evenings to save ourselves. They were a disappointment. Nowhere near as good as the Wee Hurrie in troon so don't bother going. We got back and made up for the disappointment with dessert wine and hot brownie and icecream in the cottage whilst watching thursday evening comedy on E4...our kind of evening. 

With Love


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Pita Recipe

In a break from scheduled holiday posts.....

Dinner tonight was awesome so I want to keep the recipe for the future.  I've added the calories to the recipes because someone asked for them.

I ate some of the pita before I thought to stuff the tabbouleh into the pockets. 
We had kingprawn tabbouleh with homemade pita.

The pita recipe was from farmgirl fare, I would add less salt in future but this was an incredibly quick recipe (considering that it was bread). It's reproduced here, converted into UK measurements:

the smell is amazing, wondrous puffy balls of yeast

Serves 8, calories in each pita 177

310g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt (reduced from 2 tsp in the original recipe)
1 Tbsp granulated sugar (for the yeast to eat)
packet of instant yeast
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup warm water

  1. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature (ours didn't go up to 275). 
  2. Cut out 4 bits of tinfoil (all that would fit in the oven) to put the pita on. We didn't preheat the tinfoil. 
  3. In a mixer (or with a spoon) combine 125g flour with the salt, sugar and yeast. 
  4. Add the oil and water
  5. BEAT for 3 minutes (I just used the dough-hook and the fastest setting)
  6. Stir in the rest of the flour a bit at a time (dough-hook on lower setting)
  7. Knead for 6 minutes (I used a dough hook, but kneading is pretty much just folding and stretching)
  8. Divide the dough into 8 pieces (I used a pizza cutting wheel)
  9. Roll into balls, sprinkle on some flour and cover with a damp teatowl
  10. Leave next to the oven for 30 minutes
    Now is the time to make your actual dinner/accompaniment
  11. After 30 minutes, flatten 4 of the balls and then roll out to very thin (1/4 inch)
  12. Put each onto foil and then use a metal spatula to slide into the oven straight onto the shelf
  13. Cook them for 4 minutes, meanwhile roll out the others
  14. After 4 minutes, turn them over and swap the shelves. 
  15. After another 2 minutes put back onto the now less damp teatowel and wrap them up so that the pockets happen
  16. Cook the others in the same way
And that's it! Took less than an hour in all of which most of it was pottering. Minimal mess too. I have pita left over for lunch today too (Mike ate his lunch portion on top of dinner). 

The tabbouleh was a spontaneous random recipe and made enough for 2 generous dinners and lunch. (Total 1292 bulky calories, 20% protein entire meal of pita and tabbouleh could happily feed 5 or 6, 8 with olives, hummous and extra salad). 

  1. Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 125g uncooked bulgar wheat and leave for 30 minutes, you might need to sieve it at the end. 
  2. Stirfry a packet of king prawns with 2 handfuls of mixed vegetables (we used some of Sainsburys big basic stirfry mix which is carrots and cabbage basically) and some pinenuts (optional). 
  3. Meanwhile chop up an avacado, plenty of cherry or, my new favourite, vittoria tomatoes, 1/2 a cucumber, a spring onion and a handful of parsley
  4. Make tzadziki (or use shop bought which we did and added extra mint to) and mix into the salad
  5. combine everything with added lemon juice. We also added greek basil because it's lush.
Enjoy, for several days. 


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cornwall Day 3: Eden Project and Polperro

Day 3 was a bit foggy...

So we decided to go to the Eden project. We didn't really take many photos of the flowers because we wanted the best chance to see everything. We did take this photo of us on the viewing platform, I don't look happy at the height do I? This was my second attempt to get up to the top and, I think, if I hadn't had to wait 35 minutes in a queue I wouldn't have been so determined. The Eden project was great (and we bought tickets cheaply with our clubcard)! We saw (and learned) loads and bought ourselves some hot chocolate to take home (real stuff that you grate into milk).

After the Eden project we drove to Polperro (a harbour near Fowey), potentially to visit The Blue Peter Inn (which has great reviews) for dinner. When we got there, it was busy and the menu wasn't as exciting as we'd hoped so, instead, we drank tea on the beach (alas we'd already eaten the brownies in the queue for the viewing platform at the Eden project) and I saw a one-footed seagull. Polperro is strange because it has a river running through the backs of the houses but the harbour is very pretty, with lots of rocks to explore.

We spotted some steps up from the beach which pointed to a short circular walk with extensive views (2 miles I think). It soon transpired that the fog meant we weren't going to see anything but everytime there was a viewing point we took a photo as we felt commanded. 

On the way back we tried to be inspired by the various seafood restaurants but the lunch yesterday had spoiled us so we bought some mead and some cider and went back to the cottage for a simple tuna salad. 

Day 3 then was a success, despite the weather. We actually enjoy walks in this sort of weather (and the lack of people). Especially when we came across a smugglers tunnel with a ladder which went down through the cliff onto the beach. Mike went to explore it. I did not. 


Monday, 2 July 2012

Cornwall Day 1 and 2

The next few posts are going to be more detail about our holiday itinerary- incase you decide you want to go to Cornwall and get ideas.

The cottage was a national trust cottage  which we got last minute and therefore discounted. By FAR the best thing about the cottage was the complete cornish teaset from TG Green: teapots, lots of cups, dinner plates, a huge serving bowl, coffee pot and milk jugs. I loved it, I remember having a cornish coffeepot which  Rachel (from Generation Artisan) had a matching set of, but both ended up broken :(

The cottage was well equipped and comfortable, but the dehumidifier got annoying after a while and the fact that the cottage was split into two (as are lost of their cottages) was a shame compared with our amazing honeymoon cottage.

We took a bit of a detour via Dartmoor to get there which was well worth the extra hour or so. The first evening involved going to the supermarket (requiring a ferry) and to a pub in Polruan where we enjoyed scallops, and playing a game of fluxx.
Playing Fluxx in a pub
Day two was our wedding anniversary. After opening our cards and presents (and Mike doing the crossword) we went to Padstow (to eat at Rick Stein's seafood restaurant).

Padstow Beach

Our meal was booked for 2pm so before that we went for a walk to the beach. Due to the grey day it was fairly quiet and we spent a lovely hour just wandering. We also visited the shops in Padstow - pretty greetings cards were bought.

After the meal we did a small recovery walk before heading off to Beduthran Steps. We parked and set off on a cliff-top loop, returning to the beach (down the precarious steps) for a cup of tea and some gingerbread.

And that was our first couple of days.