Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paris Je T'aime

Watching the horrific situation unfold last night in Paris was devastating. A city that is so very close to my heart attacked in such a vicious way, so many people hurt and dead is unthinkable. We've had our fair share of devastation in London too, do these terrorists have s little regard for human life. Two wrongs do not make a right, an eye for eye is wrong, pure and simple.

Paris is special to me for so many reasons, I lived there for a year in my late teens, a year that marked my soul forever. I have close family that still live there and whom thankfully were at home safe. It is also where the husband proposed to me nine years ago. Paris is a city I love implicitly, inspirational to me in many ways. So you see not only is Paris one of the most beautiful places on this earth it has marked my life in so many positive ways.

My heart and prayers goes out to those families that are suffering loss or injury and to all the Parisians, so fiercely proud of their city who are undoubtedly feeling vulnerable and frightened. As my cousin said this morning to me 'it feels like war has broken out'. How can a human being feel so compelled to inflict death on another? All countries need to stop inflicting pain on others, the blame is universal.

Be strong Les Parisiens we are with you. United we all stand against the perpetrators of such horrors.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Images of Autumn so far

As many of you may know Autumn is my favourite season, rich in colour, plentiful, crisp bright mornings and the last couple of days have been beautiful here in Cambridgeshire. Autumn signals to me the start of cosy, warm nights in front of the fire breathing in the reassuring scent of burning wood, candles flickering, rich stews bubbling away in the slowcooker, the aroma of chestnuts roasting, cinnamon baked apples and pears. Long walks down country lanes wrapped up in woolly hats and scarves jumping in mud puddles. Halloween and Bonfire Night being the highlight of this time of year for our family when we go to town with decorations, this year we were able to have a party for Matilda and her friends which was enormous fun for all including the adults.

Living in the countryside has made me appreciate the change in seasons even more, the tree lined roads surrounding our village are breathtaking at the moment, their leaves turning deeper and richer and now following to the ground with each day that passes leading us into yet another seasonal change.,.one that is perhaps not so welcome, long bleak days of the meantime I'll enjoy these last few resplendent days of Autumn then make the most of the shorter days to batten down the hatches in preparation for the glitter of the Christmas period...

What is your favourite season?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Review: The Pint Shop, Cambridge

When the invite for the Press launch of The Pint Shop's new Autumn menu landed in my inbox I didn't hesitate to accept even for a second. A stalwart of the Cambridge food scene for the last two years, The Pint Shop single handedly rescued my faith in local food. After several bad experiences since our move from London I'd resorted to thinking we'd just have to drive the hour down to London if we wanted to eat out, there was no way I was taking any more expensive risks. That was until we discovered The Pint Shop. Thankfully the husband was taken to eat there with work, came home raving about it so next time we were out we headed there.  I wasn't at all disappointed from the delicious, reasonably priced cocktails to the delicious food it was wonderful. At the risk of sounding like a terrible London food snob (I apologise for that!) it was like being back in the big smoke, reliable good food and drinks with excellent service.

Their new menu released in time to make use of the local Autumnal produce is the brainchild of Rosie Sykes. Best known for being part of the team that rescued Cambridge Institution Fitzbillies, where she is Head Chef. Rosie has had her own cookbook published The Kitchen Revolution and also writes for the Guardian. Approachable yet clearly passionate about food it was fascinating to listen to the challenges she faced in developing a menu from scratch that was outside of her comfort zone.

The Pintshop began life after friends Ben and Rich who met whilst working for Leon decided they wanted to go it alone. If you don't know Leon they were the people who revolutionised fast food in London by proving that healthy food could be prepared and delivered in record time. Fast food no longer the domain of Mr Ronald Macdonald, Leon set the trend and are now present across the capital and it's airports with plans afoot to expand nationwide.

Originally from Cambridge they recognised there was a lack of reasonably priced attractive places in the city centre to have a snack and drink if you weren't up for a full dinner. Their masculine approach to a meat heavy menu and a vast array of beers proved a winning formula, not ony with men I might add! Recognising trends in food are changing they decided to lighten' up the menu to appeal to a wider audience including families, open all day they recognised the need to develop their reputation for somewhere that children would also be welcomed for lunch. Their new more extensive children's menu will launch in January, though don't let that put you off if you have kids, as there is plenty on the current menu that I know my daughter would devour.

We kicked off with a selection of starters, all mouthwateringly good. The Southern Fried Rabbit is not to be missed, succulent which is surprising as rabbit can be dry, it's not often you see Rabbit on a menu and to be honest I'm of the Watership Down generation that didn't eat rabbit until recently. I can safely claim to be a convert these days especially after trying this. I also particularly loved the creamy, crunchy fresh Pear, fennel and chicory salad dressed in smoked almond. A wonderful clean and wholesome Autumn salad. A huge fan of sweetcorn fritters these are perfection served alongside a lovely potted crab.

The crispy Deep fried ribs are also very special indeed. Dipped in a fruit sauce with a chilli kick, they are juicy and full of meat. Heaven on a plate.

Onto the mains, astonishingly clever combinations. The Venison Haunch for me was pretty extraordinary, melt in the mouth tender with a strong mushroom sauce which enhanced rather than overpowered the meat. The light crunchy parsley topping contrasting with the richness of the dish. Equally fantastic and possibly my favourite was the Devilled Lamb Shoulder Kebab, a more sophisticated version of your typical Turkish kebab. The lamb is slow cooked over night followed by a burst on the charcoal grill before it reaches your plate where the juices run into the salad and the delicately spiced chilli sauce. Oh this was so good.

Decidedly full from trying so many dishes I forced myself to squeeze a mouthful of the puddings. For me the winning one was the Blackberry and pepper sorbet doused in gin, refreshing yet with an almighty kick to it it is a splendid way to end a meal. The ice creams at the Pint Shop are all handmade by the fabulous Jack's Gelato who you can often see riding around Cambridge. Equally divine were the Malt Teaser and the unique Tea and Toast composed of marmalade Ice cream, a delicate earl grey cream and toasted tea cakes. Need I say more?

What Rosie and her team have achieved is a fun, imaginative and well balanced menu where the ingredients speak for themselves. A clever, unpretentious combination of flavours create an explosion of the taste buds with every mouthful of their fantastic creations. Cambridge people if you've never been it's really time you did. Everyone else - this place deserves a trip of it's own!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Richard Hawley at the Cambridge Corn Exchange

A couple of nights ago I was treated to the fantastic Richard Hawley live in Cambridge. The husband and I saw him at the Roundhouse a few years ago and once again he didn't disappoint.

We're a little biased perhaps as his music, Coles Corner in particular, provided the soundtrack to our early relationship, in honour of that The Ocean was the first dance at our wedding. I think it is possibly one of the most beautiful songs ever written, I appreciate it is a bold statement to make but I honestly don't think I'm wrong.

Not only does Richard Hawley have a uniquely rich voice with a luxurious sound he writes stunning songs that strike a chord with their listeners. His music transports the listener away from the daily grind with it's all consuming sound. Don't mistake this with light easy listening music, the lyrics are tough, questioning and not all rosy. Sheffield, his home town provides much of the backdrop to his work as well as his battle with prescription drug addiction. His work comes from the core of his being, influenced by his folk loving parents he says himself 'If you become more famous than your songs, you’re fucked – do you know what I mean? It’s your songs, your output, that’s the most important thing. I find it a great honour when people say, ‘We had our first dance at our wedding to that’ or ‘We buried my mum to that.’ Although there was a lady who told me – which I found darkly funny – that she had her baby in a birthing pool to The Ocean.'

He cuts a imposing figure on stage whilst retaining his humility too relating well to his audience. Approachable he is the kind of guy that I'm sure wouldn't run at the first sight of a fan approaching him. My guess is he'd probably buy them a pint and spend the rest of the evening chatting with them. He is his own artist doing his own thing and very successfully at that. 

He played a mixture of songs from his previous albums but the finale an outstanding version of one of his most well known songs 'The Ocean' was an brought tears to the eyes of most of the audience. The show also demonstrated his musicianship, an accomplished musician not just a producer's creation he and his band really do know their stuff. Such a privilege to once again listen to this great man's work. Thank you Richard for a totally brilliant evening and for giving us yet more wonderful songs.

You can get his new album Hollow Meadows here.

Photo taken from BBC

Thursday, 22 October 2015

I'm back with a little bit of news about our new forever home

Once again I need to apologise for the lengthy absence of posts in the last 6 weeks. If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that on the 8th of September we finally sealed the deal on our dream forever home. Our move took place a week later, since then it's been a whirlwind of boxes and work.

Nestled in East Cambridgeshire close to the Suffolk border, we're in a beautiful village a cough and spit from Newmarket which most will know as the home of British Horseracing. The only traffic nuisance in this neck of the woods are the horses that seem to take precedence over cars which is a positive in my book.

The house is everything we'd dreamt of and more, it'll take some time to get it to how we want it but thankfully it is mostly decorative. From starting our search for a house we could renovate we realised quite quickly the commitment this would entail so our attentions then turned to a house that would simply require our stamp placing on it. After nearly a year of weekends spent searching our dream house finally fell into our hands. We're all ecstatic with it especially Matilda who exclaimed the first time we saw it 'I LOVE this house' much to the Estate Agent's delight I'm sure, there was no doubt we would be putting in an offer!

We're not yet ready to show you the interior of the house - needs a little tlc and updating. We've decided to take our time, not rush into things which believe me goes completely against the grain for me. I'm one of those people that things have to be done yesterday though deep down I know waiting, living in the house will ensure the right decisions and no regrets.

We did however begin work on the pond. The pond has become Matilda's little hang out place after she named it after her late Grandfather. On the second anniversary of his passing we held a little ceremony to officially open it with six new fishes. Not entirely sure the resident frog was too impressed with the disturbance of his home but over the weeks it would seem they've all become a little family out there. One month on and the fish have survived though some days it's hard to tell as they're shyness impedes any interaction with us. They scupper as soon as they sense our presence.

Nevertheless Matilda now has a physical place where she can go to have a little chat with her Papa Jonny, something that is missing when a person is cremated. In fact it was one of the husband's cousins that gave us the idea of creating a little corner of a garden a place where he can be remembered. Being a Catholic we bury our nearest and dearest so we can always take flowers to a place where we can continue to converse with them. Thankfully two years on his memory is very much alive in Matilda's young mind with amazingly clear memories too. We'd like to preserve this so together with photos and her Papa Jonny's Pond hopefully we will succeed!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

So long Summer...

Firstly apologies for my radio silence over the last few weeks. School holidays, work and a number of other events that seemed to take over have left little time to share with you here.

Without any childcare except for tennis club, at times it was challenging but we got through it and managed to have a wonderful few weeks. The weather was a little unkind though we took every opportunity we could to get out in the fresh air, we caught up with old friends in London, picked plums from the garden, watched movies on wet rainy days, read, drew and baked. The holiday ended with a glorious week in our beloved Cornwall, thankfully the weather made up for the rest of the Summer making for a Mediterranean temperature and blue seas.

Like most other children Matilda made a return to school today, the last 6 weeks went by in a flash I couldn't believe it when I woke up this morning to realise that I was once again relinquishing my daughter. Not only that she is now in Year One when everyone tells me they really start growing up, becoming a lot more independent. I read somewhere the other day that you have from when they're 5 until 8 before they rapidly lose interest in you focusing much more on their friends. My guess is it can also come earlier, as soon as she entered the playground today Mummy became oblivious to her. Though she came running towards me with arms held wide open this afternoon at pick up.

I'll be sharing a few more Summer adventures over the coming days, in the meantime here are a few snapshots of some fun moments.

Hope you all had a great Summer and that the return to routine wasn't too painful this morning...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Oxbow and Peach Vintage Shop, Cambridge

One of the very first places we stopped at last Summer on our hunt for a house to rent was the exquisite Oxbow and Peach. Both the husband and I fell in love with it, since then I've got to know Georgie and Lizzie well during all my visits to the shop as they're always happy to chat and share their knowledge about all things vintage.

Tucked away in Whittlesford a few miles from the centre of Cambridge a visit to this place is such a treat, I defy anyone to come away empty handed. My latest post for This Is Your Kingdom is all about this gorgeous place which you can read here.

If you're passing by on a Friday or Saturday from September (they close over the Summer) do pop in and have a coffee with Georgie and Lizzie, you won't be disappointed!