In a day and age of low cost flights, a holiday abroad seems like a no-brainer. However on our doorsteps and only a drive away are beautiful towns and villages set in incredible countryside and along breathtaking coastlines. Back in August we jumped in the car and headed down to Dartmouth for super relaxing week. The weather wasn't on our side the whole time - it gave us an excuse to have long lie ins and massages - but when the sun did come out it shone down on the regatta and the exciting goings on in this delightful town. One day I grabbed the camera and took a walk to Dartmouth Castle. Up high in the narrow lanes there are amazing views across the river Dart - click on the paranormal above! I've been inspired to explore more of our British Isles after this trip and our weekend away in the New Forest… where next?
Where have the past two months gone? No blog through the whole of September! It isn't as though I haven't been up to anything, in fact it's very much the opposite, so there is alot to catch up on.
Last night was the final of the Great British Bake Off, and I think this series I have been more inspired than any other. In the first few weeks of the programme I decided to give the challenge of the episode a go myself, so I tried to make a swiss roll (disaster) and florentines (far more successful). The latter involved the technique of tempering chocolate which was completely new to me, so I got onto YouTube and found a video which didn't involve a cooking thermometer. It's all quite scientific but the lady explains the science of the chocolate crystals - yup, I had no idea either! The long and short of it is you melt the chocolate and then lower the temperature back down so that the gloopy goodness will harden nice and shiny almost immediately after it has been spread, piped or shaped. I used the tempered chocolate to coat the backs of the delicious florentines, and I poured the left overs into muffin moulds to create chocolate cups to eat ice cream out of. For Dan's birthday cake I spread the tempered chocolate onto a baking sheet and cut out triangles to make bunting, alongside another new chocolate creation, chocolate ganache. For that, here is a great recipe.
All in all it's been a pretty chocolatey time but I feel I have added a new skill to my repertoire - the whole point of a challenge a month I suppose!
Sometimes you feel like you have got to get away from it all and a couple of weeks ago, we jumped in the car and drove away from the city in the direction of the New Forest. Considering it's just a couple of hours away and friends have raved about its beauty, I don't know why we hadn't visited early, nevertheless we booked a room with a lovely lady Pam on Airbnb in Lymington. We had the best of both worlds, walks along the sea wall with views across to the Isle of Wight, and driving past the beautiful villages and gorgeous cows and horses in the forest. On Sunday before we drove home we had a delicious lunch at a highly recommended venue, the Mill at Gordleton. If you're ever in the area this one you can't miss, the gardens are fantastic! It was a lovely break away, but we're off to Devon next week to really recharge the batteries - more English countryside, here we come!!
After not managing to visit for the last couple of years, yesterday Mum, Dad and I explored the vast array of artworks at the Summer Exhibition. With the price list in hand, we wandered through the galleries, gazing at the large canvases to the smallest of prints of old names to new emerging artists. I hadn't considered that we would buy a piece but year on year you start to realise your favourites and yesterday we were drawn again to the work of Norman Ackroyd. I am always somewhat mesmerised by the landscapes that he creates of the most extreme points on our British Isles: dramatic seascapes or the rolling hills of the northern counties. The programme 'What do artists do all day?' gives a fantastic insight to just that, and it is incredible to see Ackroyd's working process that leads to such beautiful etchings. The work in the programme is the bottom image, The Rumbleings Muckle Flugga, Shetland. I'm now so excited to see Upper Wharfedale when it arrives, but in the meantime see exhibit 185 at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition before 17th August.
Images by Norman Ackroyd at Zillah Bell Gallery
The Kentish coastline provides never ending photo opportunities. We had a day out in wonderful Whitstable, wandering through the stalls at the Oyster Festival in the scorching heat, cooling off in the sea. We discovered beach front of Herne Bay, and looked out to the wind farms at sea. Finally we went back to our city of Canterbury, seeing it in a different light but still enjoying its beauty. See you again soon!
We were yet to make the most of our little flat in Brixton, so my birthday was a great excuse to throw a party. It's the ground floor of a Victoria terrace and we are lucky to have the run of the garden so a garden party was in order... but we do live in England after all. Good weather isn't guaranteed. True to form, rain was forecast and so the garden had to come inside.
To get inspired I started a board on Pinterest, and I loved the balloon installations and festoon lighting. Over the weeks before I collected jam jars to create hanging lanterns for outside, but the weather meant we kept them inside and instead we sipped prosecco out of them - how trendy! I'm still going to give the lantern project a go, but in the meantime they're fantastic as little vases.
Somehow a pink and yellow theme spontaneously emerged and it was seen in the cups and plates, flowers and balloons. I was up early on the day to get baking: lemon drizzle cake, rose and strawberry Victoria sponge, chocolate and raspberry and tea-infused cupcakes. Dan was in charge of the savoury goods: handmade pigs in blankets, sausage rolls and pizza fingers.
I had a great night and the summer is only half way through, so I hope next time we can get out in the garden and have a dinner party out there!
Sharp Works also run workshops and a few months ago I signed up to the Fair Isle class to learn how to do stranded colour work. I've tried knitting with colour before, but the class was great for learning new tips - how to catch the strands at the back which can get loose and easily caught, or the continental or British way of holding the yarn (yup, there are different ways!) Now I've got the basics, I'm keen to give a Fair Isle jumper a go sometime and these two above, under the snaps of my practice swatch, are some beautiful examples that I'd like to have a try and emulating. Stranding colour work is simpler knitting in the round so I've signed up to that class now...
If you had told me this time last year, or even a couple of months ago, that I would be... wait for it... running, I would have said 'NO WAY!' I wasn't a runner, or even a jogger, and an experience a few years back when I went out for a "run" with brother Dowle left me slightly scarred. I've been wanting to do something in order to get my fitness levels up (and to stop me feeling sick when if I have to run for a train!) but my usual go-to of swimming had become somewhat inconvenient during the working week.
It all happened very suddenly. Running clothes were ordered, couch to 5k app downloaded on my phone and all of sudden, one Saturday four weeks ago, Dan had turned into a personal trainer. At first I could really only run for a minute, walking in between, but honestly this interval training business really works. Over the past month I have been waking up early before work, turning on my 'Run Forrest Run' playlist and hearing the nice lady on the Get Running app telling me how far I've got to go. Tomorrow morning I'll be running for 8 minutes straight twice over. And I've bought a proper pair of running shoes.
I must be enjoying myself or I wouldn't get up at 6am to do this, but it's by no means the same feeling I get when I go dancing. With this though I've got a goal: I'm going to do a 10k run in the autumn. May was a great time to start with summer on the way and it's quite rewarding early on a sunny morning running up a hill and seeing this view.
The aspect that got me the most from seeing the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition at the Tate Modern was the manner in which he wielded his scissors; it's amazing to see old colour footage of such a renowned artist for starters and seeing the way he worked. The exhibition holds a wealth of his later art works, including a few paintings too and what I took away was the vibrancy of colours and the scale of some of his later pieces, carried out when Matisse's health was failing. This video from the Culture Show (part 1 and part 2) gives even more background to the story. Definitely go and see it - they say this is a one in a lifetime chance to see such a large collection of Matisse's cut outs in one exhibition...
Hyacinth are my favourites at the moment, their distinctive scent and how I remember them potted in Nanna and Pop's kitchen when I was little. I bought this beautiful mixed bunch, which is further blooming in front of me with lilac and fuschia petals, from Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday morning. This little street in East London was teaming with people, flourishing with colour and smells of herbs. Not one of us five girls can profess a horticultural expertise but there was so much to be tempted by and a lot of new names of varieties to be learned. I picked up some basil, coriander and parsley to add to the herb garden, and Jess bought daisy-like argyranthemum and kindly gave me a pot too! And the flowers are just one part of the draw of Columbia Road - there's a wealth of little shops I've yet to explore, so will definitely be back and perhaps even earlier next time to avoid the crowds.