September 2016: This month I have mostly been…

london002

Feeling: Relaxed

Not only has work not been manic recently and so I’ve been getting away relatively on time (which is nice) but I’ve also been away on holiday for a week in Slovenia which was just wonderful. The only problem with going away is that it makes me long to be away for longer and explore more, even if my waistline would disagree with that!

p1060582

Reading: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The best thing about blogging is being able to look back and remember things that otherwise would have escaped my memory. Most recently, the question of when I first picked up a book by Khaled Hosseini was answered by delving into my archives. Apparently I first read And the Mountains Echoed in July 2014 and then the more famous, The Kite Runner in December 2015 before finally reading A Thousand Splendid Suns this past month. I might have only read one a year but it’s not because I haven’t wanted to read them all in quick succession, but because they’re all so individually heartbreakingly good that I’ve wanted to ration them (three books being Khaled Hosseini’s output so far).

Each character is beautifully drawn, but you do need to be emotionally prepared for them. Each one has left me an emotional wreck. Read them all if you haven’t already.

thousandsplendidsuns

Watching: Not much to be honest

Other than casually dropping on things on TV, we haven’t really been watching anything in particular. I feel like we need to start Stranger Things on Netflix, but maybe we’ll save that for when the nights start to draw in, which will be pretty soon actually the way things are going.

Planning: My autumn wardrobe

It’s mostly going to feature mustard and oxblood at this rate. I bought a mustard cardigan lately and although it’s a colour I’ve always shied away from, I’m growing to love it. I am always tempted to stick to black, but I have been eyeing up all the lovely things in Accessorise in teal, mustard, grey and reds. In particular I am loving the Blake Triple Pocket Soft Shoulder Bag, the Dena Chain Large Across Body Bag and the Ronnie Camera Bag. However, I’m not buying anything until I get my student card (and therefore discount) through for my MA course. I’m starting to wonder if I can make up the cost of my MA in student discount savings, that would totally make it worth it! Ah, being a student at the age of 30 and when working full-time – the best and worst of all possible worlds?

Follow me on:
Bloglovin’ ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest

Breakfast in Bread at The Barge House

bargehouse002

You know that thing when you see something on the internet (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever) and you just have to track it down and go there or eat it or drink it or experience it? It’s the whole influencer effect. Until recently I only really understood it as a concept through rabid teenage fangirls who just HAVE to have a certain nail varnish just because their favourite vlogger is wearing it or commenting on Instagram dying to know where a big blogger bought their bog standard black umbrella. However, I must admit that a few weeks ago I moved out of the realm of merely perusing Instagram during a moment of downtime to actually being influenced.

The worst thing about having been influenced? I can’t even remember who it was that influenced my actions in this case, I just remember scrolling my feed and seeing a photo of a hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed full and topped with an egg. I clicked on the location, fully expecting to find it came from a restaurant miles across London or something. But no! East London! Haggerston to be precise. Only a short trip from Whitechapel via the Overground or, better, a twenty minutes stroll from Colombia Road Flower Market on a Sunday.

Oh but it’s East London, I thought, surely they won’t take reservations and I’ll have to get there an hour before I want to sit down and actually eat. But lo and behold, as I clicked over to The Barge House’s website, they do take reservations, it was a Christmas miracle. I booked us in for brunch on our next free weekend.

bargehouse005

On a sunny Sunday we strolled up to Colombia Road and, after perusing the flowers and deciding against buying anything as we were going on holiday the following week, we headed across to Haggerston. On the way we stumbled across what is probably my new favourite piece of street art:

bargehouse006

Arriving at the Barge house for our 11.30am reservation, the place was already busy with people and I was pleased we had reserved a table. We were led upstairs and seated at the back near a fan, albeit away from the view of the canal. We were handed menus on clipboards and ordered drinks – a spicy Bloody Mary for my boyfriend and a pot of tea for me.

The weekend brunch menu at the Barge House is short and in terms of food is solely made up of Breakfasts in Bread (genius name, right?) – hollowed out sourdough loaves stuffed with various breakfast options.

My boyfriend dithered between The Vegetarian (filled with slow roasted tomatoes, spinach, leeks, oyster mushrooms, avocado, asparagus, topped with a free range egg and sprinkled with cheese) and The Smoked Salmon (filled with spinach, leeks, smoked salmon, crème fraiche & topped with a free range egg & sprinkled with cheese). Whereas I was pretty certain from the start that I was having The Original (filled with smoked bacon, Cumberland sausage, slow roasted tomatoes, leeks, oyster mushrooms, spinach, topped with a free range egg and sprinkled with cheese).

bargehouse002

The breakfasts arrive on a board together with a sharp knife – all the better to cut the sourdough shell with.

It’s hard to know how to approach it but in the end I went with slicing a segment from it and attacking it from there. My boyfriend went with an approach a little bit akin to peeling open a flower. Either way, the egg yolk is perfectly cooked and pricking it with a knife leads to a cascade of yolk down the side of the roll.

bargehouse003bargehouse

It really was a proper breakfast in bread with generous hunks of sausage hidden inside together with bacon, tomato, mushrooms, spinach and less traditionally, leeks. I probably could have given the leeks a miss to be honest as they don’t fit with my idea of breakfast but they’re in there as a kind of leeky breakfast bonus if you’re a leek fan.

We managed to finish our rolls, with my boyfriend almost admitting defeat at the end but pushing through to finish it off. Although it does look like a lot, because the bread roll has been hollowed out for the filling, it doesn’t leave you too carb-bloated afterwards. Perfect.

As we were leaving, a queue was starting to build up outside The Barge House and we knew we made the right choice to get there relatively early, enjoy brunch and get away in time to enjoy a long and lazy sunny afternoon. I can highly recommend that you do the same at some point.

bargehouse004

Follow me on:
Bloglovin’ ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest

A Brighton weekend

brighton056

This blog post has been a while in the making but as we move into September and the late balmy summer seems to have ended, I think it’s about time I got it posted. Back in July we headed down to Brighton for a night at Brighton’s Big Screen and of course, we took the opportunity to wander around. Before lunch at 64 Degrees we headed straight to the beach for a bit of bracing sea air, although it was July it wasn’t the brightest of days.

Brighton003 Brighton005Brighton030

After browsing the various beachfront shops (my favourite being Castor and Pollux), we headed to the pier to while away our time in the arcades getting competitive with basketball games and throwing our money away on the penny pushing machines.

Brighton018

The Brighton i360 wasn’t quite open when we visited and so the doughnut shaped viewing platform wasn’t moving up and down the central pillar as it should, and so the column stood empty and in my view, as a blight on the seafront. A few years ago we visited Brighton and stayed at Hotel Una which is situated on Regency Square and I remember thinking how nice the square was as it opened out onto the sea at the bottom. Now, the i360 is at the bottom of the square and it’s a shame as in my opinion it ruins it.

Brighton020

After lunch, which was stunning, seriously, if you ever visit Brighton you have to visit 64 Degrees, we wandered the gardens of the Royal Pavilion and admired the landscaped gardens, which were in full bloom.

Brighton015Brighton017

We didn’t go in the Royal Pavilion this time (I do want to at some point though) but instead headed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening at Brighton Big Screen.

The next morning, after breakfast and a little tour of the hotel’s facilities, we headed out and toured the streets of Brighton looking for street art and browsing the Lanes which, on a Saturday, were chock-full of people all out enjoying an overcast but mild day.

 Brighton041Brighton042

Tucked away inside Flock, a vintage clothes shop is a tiny little leanto at the back which houses Spiderplant Shop, a cornucopia of every kind of house plant or succulent you could imagine. Despite already owning a number of neglected succulents and cacti, I couldn’t resist a tiny little succulent reminiscent of a Bulbasaur and tucked him away in my bag to smuggle into the house, hopefully without my boyfriend noticing. He thinks I have a problem. In fairness, I might.

After success in Budapest with researching places to eat in advance (rather than our more usual approach which involves wandering round dismissing places or thinking we’ll find somewhere better until I get really hangry and we end up settling on somewhere that neither of us fancied that much), I decided to do some advance research for Brighton and it did not disappoint when it turned up 64 Degrees and for our second day, The Chilli Pickle, the recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand meaning that they offer ‘exceptional good food at moderate prices’ – perfect for lunch.

 

Decked out a little in the style of an Indian version of Comptoir Libanais, I was initially sceptical, but if Michelin told me it was good then I was inclined to trust them. We ordered a railway tray each – Punjabi Adraki Chicken Curry for me and the Paneer Jalfrezi for my boyfriend. Reflecting the food offered on long distance trains across India, we were served with a variety of small dishes including rice, vegetable, dal, pickles, chutney, salad, a samosa and more with a baby naan on the side.

brighton050 

Don’t let the tiny bowls deceive you, this was a really substantial meal. We dipped into each bowl, swapping and sharing our favourites (which did pack a flavour punch) and we left stuffed. I do recommend a visit if you’re in Brighton.

brighton057

We had such a lovely weekend that, Southern Railway be damned, we will be back soon.

Follow me on:
Bloglovin’ ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest

What we got up to at Heron Hut and my tips for glamping

glamping033

My post about our stay at Heron Hut was chock-full of photos because I took so many that I liked that I couldn’t just not include them – it was just too pretty. However, what I left out was anything about what we got up to when we were glamping, which let’s be honest, was mostly eating. Although we did spend most of our time pottering on the lake in Peggy Sue, exploring, reading or playing cards and just generally relaxing, we did spend a lot of our time eating. We were on holiday…

So, just in case you happen to be in the Oxfordshire area (or, even better, staying at one of the huts at Rushy Meadows), then I thought I’d do a very short post on two of the places we ate.

As we needed to stock up on groceries, we headed to Sainsburys in Witney on our first day and while we were there, had a wander around Witney and decided to have lunch there. It was a Sunday and we hadn’t planned where we were going to eat but decided to hope that somewhere would have room for us. Witney is pretty (strangely I didn’t take any photos). After a quick google, we decided on The Horsehoes which looked good and was able to squeeze us in.

We were impressed by the atmosphere and the decor and also the fact that on a Sunday they offered more than just a Sunday roast, although we did question the wisdom of having so many options as our food did take a very long time to arrive (so much so that we jettisoned the idea of having dessert), although service was nice and attentive.

We started by sharing three cheese beignets served with sautéed spinach and chive oil. Good little cheesey morsels which, with hindsight, we should have ordered more of as we relied upon them to carry us through.

glamping066

For mains my boyfriend had the seared tuna niçoise which was a cut above your average niçoise, so he almost forgave them the wait.

glamping067

I had the roast chicken which was fine, standard Sunday dinner.

glamping068

It did come with all the trimming though and a good side of veg, served along with a little boat of extra gravy, because you can’t ever have too much gravy.

 

The next day (a beautiful one) we decided to visit somewhere closer to home, the Hand and Shears in Church Hanborough. It came recommended by Ali, our host and was walking distance from our hut via a public footpath across the fields. With bare arms in the gorgeous weather, we ran the gauntlet of nettles on our way across one of the fields and followed the church spire towards Church Hanborough.

 

We arrived at the Hand and Shears to find locals enjoying a Bank Holiday drink (along with a great dog) and were greeted by Chris, who got us settled at a table with drinks – as I was the designated driver for the weekend and for our trips out, it was nice to be able to have a cold glass of rose on a gorgeous day knowing I didn’t have to drive that day.

Offering a menu of pub classics and seasonal mains, we chose to share chargrilled halloumi to start, which I was encouraged to start before my boyfriend arrived back at the table, having been distracted by a bookcase full of great books that were right up his slightly anti-establishment street.

glamping074

My boyfriend ordered seabass which came with Mediterranean style sides.

glamping075

Whereas I went for a bacon and blue cheese sandwich with chunky chips and a colourful side salad.

 

Happy to sit and nurse another glass of wine, we ordered desserts to share – Eton Mess and a cheeseboard.

 

Seriously though, how adorable is the cheeseboard?

glamping080

The food and hospitality at the Hand and Shears were lovely, we both wished it could be our local.

Full and happy, we headed back across the fields for an afternoon sprawled out on the picnic blanket reading in the sun (no wonder I ended up a bit pink the next day).

glamping073

Whilst I don’t profess to be a glamping expert after just one trip (although there will definitely now be more), here are my tips for how to survive a glamping trip:

  • Think about how you’ll cope without all the trappings of modern life – for me, my main loss was a hairdryer and straighteners, so I googled ways to style hair without heat, it still left me without my usual ironed straight hair, but it felt a little more under control than my usual early morning bird’s nest.
  • Pack clothes for all eventualities – layering is key here. Even if it turns out to be a beautiful day, chances are that it will be chilly in the morning (or the middle of the night if you really can’t wait until morning to walk to the toilet) so pack a warm hoodie and a coat that will act as a windbreaker. Pack wellies too, it might not be muddy but early morning dew on long grass will soak your trousers and shoes through before you even know it.
  • If you’re travelling there by car, buy an in-car charger with multiple USB slots so you can charge phones while you drive. It takes longer than charging from the mains, but it might give that crucial bit of juice for one last Instagram. I found this one on Amazon. It turned out that our hire car had a USB slot too so we were well away for charging both our phones and my work phone. If you aren’t going by car then consider buying a spare battery or portable charger. The same goes for your camera if you’re going to be there for more than a day or two.
  • Learn how to make a proper fire – you might be relying upon it for warmth in a woodburner or just for toasting marshmallows over a fire pit, but either way, it probably wouldn’t hurt to brush up on the best way to go about making one, it’s not a skill they teach in schools these days.
  • Meal plan – ok, so we went out for lunch both days, but we did have breakfast and dinner each day to sort out. Try and find tasty one-pan recipes – ideally using ingredients that don’t need refrigerating if possible. So, for breakfast on two of the days we were there we had pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast using one of those pre-made mixes that you just have to add water to. For dinner we cooked on the gas hob and also toasted crumpets over the fire. Plan ahead and you’ll be fine! At the very worst, know where the local chippy or pub is!

Follow me on:
Bloglovin’ ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest