8 Dec 2021

Recent Happy Things | Autumn & Festive Edition

 Festive happy things

Currently on the sofa nursing a roast dinner food baby (alongside an actual human baby) with a Christmas tree twinkling in the background and a Yankee Christmas cookie candle burning next to me. Truly content with this set-up. It's been a busy few months prepping for baby, prepping to finish work, trying to squeeze as much out of my favourite time of year and trying not to freak out about becoming first-time parents in the very near future. Everything is a combination of excitement and WHOA on an almost-daily basis right now, and yet I also feel weirdly calm? All the emotions. 

But anyway, here’s some of the magic stuff from the last couple of months: 


Autumnal scenes. Oh how those golden views and crunchy leaves under foot make my heart happy.  

Chocolate scones. Recently discovered that one of our local cafes does rich, warm, chocolatey scones with clotted cream and they are so good

Long overdue catch-up with my friend Susie. We met in such a cute pub, face-planted a baked camembert and debriefed the last two years. It was a joy. 

A final trip up north before bubba arrives. I managed to time it just as the weather was getting colder and the cats were curling up in front of the fire; is there anything cosier?

The Netflix fire. Sadly, our house is not set-up for a real fire, or even a fake fire, so the next best thing is the Netflix fire on the telly and yes, okay, there is no heat but the crackling sounds and the flickering flames are still really very cosy. 

Happy things

Happy things

Happy things

Taylor’s Red album. Those tracks from the vault though! Never have I been more indignant about a gal being stood up on her birthday (if you know, you know…). 


A visit from my gal Beth and her baby boy who is less of a baby these days and more of a sassy toddler who has absolutely no fear of enormous slides. On a side note, toddlers are excellent when heavily pregnant because you can walk at their pace and no one need know this is the pace you now actually walk at. 

Sparkly winter wedding in the Cotswolds. Bonfire night weekend, the gorgeous Cotswolds, catching up with old friends, incredible food, SPARKLERS and witnessing some of the best people getting married. What joy. 

My sister came to stay and wandering around autumnal fields & eating Indian food with her and the fam the same weekend I finished work felt like a mini celebration. 

Date night.
To celebrate me finishing for maternity leave, Gary and I went for a little date night at a local Italian where there was great mocktails and a cookie-dough themed pudding. The staff were also super lovely and chatty about our bubba, including one woman who said she could guess the sex based on the shape of my bump. I don’t really buy into that kinda thing but in fairness, she was correct! 

Happy things

Happy things

Happy things

Happy things

Christmas market. This came to Ely at the end of November and I really was in my element with the sparkly lights, Christmas music, bratwurst and sugar-covered churros. So festive.  


I’m a celebrity. Starting the day with trash telly on the sofa has felt like the ultimate indulgence whilst on maternity leave and I’m really here for it. 

Putting the Christmas tree up. I used our imminent arrival as a way to persuade Gary to put our tree up early this year and I cannot tell you how happy a twinkling tree in the living room makes me. I’m convinced the room is made at Christmas time. 

Happy things

Happy things

Happy things

Happy things

Tony’s chocolonely advent calendar. I think I might have bought this back in October because the moment I saw that my favourite chocolate company had made a huge advent calendar, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Finally have been able to crack it open and am thrilled to discover it includes some of the flavours not available in the UK. 


A festive lunch with my friend Lizzie when she came to visit for the day. We had turkey sandwiches, mulled wine (sadly not for me) and Christmas pudding in a cosy café decorated for Christmas and it was bloody lovely. 

Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles. I am a sucker for some seasonal reading at this time of year and just 40 pages into this book, I am in love. I identify hard with Nigel’s love and appreciation for midwinter and Christmas, particularly a sentence about how he feels like he can breathe again when the cooler air comes along. I would recommend if you also love the winter, but also if you don’t because this book will encourage you to find the little joys in it.  


I hope you are enjoying the season dear reader. I may not be posting for a little while as we wait for and enjoy our new arrival so I hope you have a lovely Christmas (certainly a better one than last year!) and I will see you soon! 

7 Dec 2021

12 Random Reflections On Pregnancy

 Pregnancy

I mean, there are many things to say about pregnancy. It can have you feeling many different things all at the same time and no experience is the same. But these are some of my random reflections on the last nearly-nine months. 


1/ I knew heartburn was a thing in pregnancy. Didn’t know it was so much of a thing that I should have bought shares in bloody Gaviscon. 

2/ I’m still not over how much is put on due dates when there is essentially a five-week window in which a full-term baby can arrive and only about 5% come on that 40-week date. Blows my mind a little bit.

3/ Midwives really like asking you for a wee. Every time I leave for an appointment, it’s like keys, purse, mask, pot of urine. I have lived in fear of ruining a handbag with my own piss, which hasn’t really been an issue in life up until now. 

4/ The narrative of trying to scare new parents-to-be about pregnancy, childbirth and the newborn days has really got to stop. There’s honesty and then there’s deliberately trying to invoke terror in someone in a vulnerable position. Not cool. 

5/ We now calculate time in weeks and days but never months. Don’t know why this is confusing for you... 

6/ The question I have been asked the most during pregnancy (aside from whether it’s a boy or a girl) is if I’ve had any weird cravings. It amuses me how disappointed people are when you say no. Even Gary seems slightly disappointed that he was never sent out to hunt for gherkins at 3am. I can only apologise. 

7/ People really want to touch your bump. It’s like their hand is pulled towards the possibility of new life like a magnet. It’s cute when it’s your friends, less cute when it’s random drunk stranger at a wedding. 

8/ The bigger I’ve got, the more off my spatial awareness has become. My error of judgement usually occurs in a café or restaurant when I think I can squeeze between two tables or past a waitress and then suddenly I’m pressing my unborn child into somebody’s face. My bad. 

9/ I know it’s just a thing we say but the more it’s been said to me, the more bemused I’ve become by ‘sleep now, whilst you can’. Aside from the fact that I do not possess a magical power to bank my sleep hours for the future (don’t worry lads, got a full night’s sleep on 18th November 2018 so we’re all good), telling this pregnant woman to get a good night’s sleep will result in me detailing how many times I had to get up for a wee last night. You have only yourself to blame. 

10/ Do you miss alcohol? Only when surrounded by drunk people and realising how annoying they are when you’re the solitary sober person. Brie on the other hand…. We will be reunited soon my love. 

11/ I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’m still able to walk a few miles before needing to stop but my perception of how fast I’m walking is now somewhat off. I think I’m walking at my usual pace and then my Apple Watch asks me if I’ve ‘finished my workout’. Cheeky prick. 

12/ Yeah Netflix is great and all but have you ever spent several hours watching your baby move in your belly? Never gets old. 

6 Dec 2021

Slow Recipes For Slow Winter Days

 Winter cooking

On these gorgeously cosy winter days (yeah, I really am a sucker for this time of year), I find spending a leisurely day in the kitchen really soothing. There are just some recipes that are designed to be made when the weather is cold and you have an abundance of time to let things prove or simmer whilst you meander about in knitwear. These are three of my favourite recipes to make on such days.

Nigella’s sandwich loaf

By far, my favourite bread recipe to make. You need to get going on a weekend morning if you want it ready for lunch as it involves two proves but if you’re baking during the winter, you can use the central heating to speed things up a little. I find the whole process of making this loaf very therapeutic so think it’s an excellent way to start the weekend.

The original recipe can be found in Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson.

You will need:
500g strong white flour
7g fast action yeast
2 teaspoon caster sugar
Generous pinch of salt
125ml sour cream
150ml cold water
100ml boiling water
Oil

Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt.

Mix the sour cream, cold water and boiling water.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring as you go and bring together to form a rough ball of sticky dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Drizzle a little oil on the kitchen counter and spread into a light sheen big enough to knead on. Knead the dough for 10 seconds (I find this very therapeutic so it’s hard to only do for such a short amount of time!), bring back into a ball, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat twice.

Knead for a third time and then cover again and leave to rise for an hour. I put the bowl into the warm boiler cupboard at this point which usually means the dough has doubled in size after about 40 minutes.

Line the bottom of a loaf tin (2lb) and lightly grease. Lightly flatten out the dough (only a little bit) on the kitchen counter and then tightly roll it like a Swiss roll. Place it seam-side down into the tin. Leave to rise for another hour until just poking out the top – I usually balance it on the warm radiator which often knocks off a good chunk of this time. 

When ready, bake at 180c (fan) for 45 minutes.

Nigella sandwich loaf


Sausage, onion & red wine pasta

From my favourite recipe book, Midnight Chicken (reviewed here), this recipe involves minimal prep and should be left alone to simmer on the hob. It’s one to be made on a slow weekend evening whilst sipping on a glass of wine, listening to a great album and occasionally stirring. Trust me, the taste is worth the wait.

The original recipe can be found in Midnight Chicken (And Other Recipes Worth Living For) by Ella Risbridger.

You will need (serves 2):
1 large red onion, very finely sliced
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
4 sausages, chopped.
400g tin tomatoes
150ml red wine
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp chilli flakes
50g parmesan (and the rind if you have it)
2 tbsp double cream

In a large frying pan, melt the butter on a low heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and leave to gently fry and caramelise for a minimum of 15 minutes. Add the sausage pieces and fry until browned. Add the tomatoes, wine, rosemary, chilli flakes and parmesan rind if using. Leave to simmer gently for a minimum of 35 minutes. After around 25 minutes, put your pasta on to boil.

When the pasta is nearly ready, fish out the rosemary sprig and parmesan rind from the sauce and add the parmesan and double cream. Stir well. Add the drained pasta and stir well again. Serve up with extra parmesan and a glass of wine if you fancy.

Cinnamon & pecan buns

What’s better during chilly autumnal/Christmassy days then filling the house with the smell of cinnamon? Another one that involves a couple of proves but it is well worth the time spent for the huge sticky buns at the end of it. Perfect for eating on a slow, cosy Sunday afternoon.

This recipe is from the blog Lynsey’s Notebook – you can find it here (along with loads of other delicious recipes!).

You will need: 
For the dough:
500g strong white flour
7g fast action yeast
40g caster sugar
200ml milk
2 large eggs
60g softened butter
For the filling:
80g softened butter 
80g dark brown sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
100g pecan nuts, blitzed in the food processor 
For the glaze:
100g melted butter
100ml maple syrup
50g dark brown sugar
100g pecans, chopped

Mix the flour, sugar and yeast. Gently warm the milk up in a saucepan until it is lukewarm and then add to the dry ingredients along with the eggs and butter. Combine to form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and shiny.  Leave to rise until doubled in size (I use the boiler cupboard again!). 

Make the filling by mixing the butter, sugar, cinnamon and pecan nuts. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle which is roughly 50x30cm long and spread the filling over it. Roll tightly long edge to long edge and then cut into 12 pieces. 

Make the glaze by combining the butter, maple syrup and sugar. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of a tin and then pour over the glaze. Lay the buns on top then leave to prove again for another hour. 

Brush the tops of the buns with milk and bake in a pre-heated oven at 170c (fan) for 25 minutes. Leave to cool completely then turn the buns out onto a large cooling rack with the pecan-glaze side as the top. 



Top photo by Gaelle Marcel 

5 Dec 2021

Photo Diary: Visiting A Giant Globe @ Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Back in the summer, the Gaia globe art installation came to Ely cathedral. Measuring seven metres in diameter installed in an impressive cathedral, it was quite the spectacular sight and I love the photos I managed to capture with the wide-angle lens. The installation aims to create the experience astronauts feel when viewing the planet from space and, in light of the pandemic, a new perspective on the Earth, our interconnected societies and the responsibilities we have toward one another and taking care of the environment. You can read more about it here

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

2 Dec 2021

An Ode To The Perfect Cookie

 Cookie
The best cookie I ever had was from Levain Bakery in New York, in their bakery on West 74th Street. Faced with the choice of a cookie or any other baked good, I will nearly always choose the cookie meaning I have sampled a lot of them and, as a result, have accidentally become somewhat of a cookie snob. My perfect cookie should be ridiculously chunky with a domed top; almost as though it could be mistaken for an old school rock cake (anyone else remember making them at school?). There should be the juxtaposition of big – preferably chocolatey – chunks and a gooey borderline-undercooked middle with a crunchy shell as you bite into heavenly goodness. The cookies in Levain Bakery fulfil all of these requirements and I swear eating them on a New York street makes them taste even better. But perhaps that last one is just for me. 


Our honeymoon in New York coincidentally overlapped with one of my oldest friends’ holidays there. We met in a pizza place just round the corner from Levain Bakery and compared our holiday food maps much to the bemusement of our partners. We then went to the bakery together, excitedly ready to try long-anticipated food which is an accurate summary of our friendship. It was pouring rain and the city was sticky and steaming. We found shelter under some scaffolding so we could eat, feeling very ‘Brits abroad’. The cookies were hot in our pockets like the rain was hot on our skin. 

Cookie

A few months later, we met in London and headed to Crème, a newly opened bakery with many similarities to Levain, right down to the tiny shop tucked into the street and full of people and the most incredible smells. Again, we ate them on the street only this time it was a cold January day in England and the steam from the cookies was the only source of heat. They were nearly as good as those eaten on a hot New York street. We wouldn’t see each other for over a year after that point, thanks to the 2020 lockdowns. During those long months at home, I found the perfect cookie recipe to bake; the closest I’ve got to recreating eating enormous cookies on city streets. They are full of huge chunks of Diary Milk, frozen before baking and are in the oven for no longer than 12 minutes which results in a deliciously gooey centre. It is a comfort that can only be improved if eaten with an old friend standing outside a warm bakery. 

28 Nov 2021

In A Bit Then, London

 

Covent Garden

Whilst sat on a 10pm train out of London a few weeks back, it occurred to me that it had probably been my last trip into the capital for quite some time. 

I wrote a post here about saying goodbye to commuting following Covid and the move to permanent home working. Since that point, it’s been 19 months since I was last in an office and, with my maternity leave imminent, this feels unlikely to change anytime soon. In this time, London has become somewhere very different to me. Whilst we used to have a strong love hate relationship going on – the hate mostly coming from the relentless slog of commuting and the love from the people, experiences and opportunities it brought me – I now feel like our relationship has changed to one of gentle enjoyment. It’s taken me a while to accept that I can no longer just ‘pop’ into London in the way I could when we lived in St Albans, although it took several ‘sure I’ll pop in for dinner’ moments to realise how ridiculous it was that I thought that was a sensible idea (particularly when heavily pregnant). But, since leaving commuting behind, there has been a small collection of day trips and weekends and I love it. I love being in London and not feeling frazzled. I love playing tourist whilst still knowing my way around. I love feeling like I have the energy to explore new places rather then travelling all that way just to see the same street and same office on repeat. And whilst it’s likely going to be a few months before I go back into London, I’m really excited to enjoy some days on maternity leave where baby and I head in to visit my sister and my friends. Obviously never-say-never to working in London again, but I’m really here for this new and improved relationship and the better work-life balance it brings me. 

A few photos from my last trip in below; my friend Ele and I spent the afternoon in various Covent Garden coffee shops (we kept getting chucked out as they closed) and then I met my friend Alice in the evening for great Indian food at Cinnamon Bazaar before heading to the theatre to see Six


Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

25 Nov 2021

Lemon & Elderflower Celebration Cake, To Be Eaten in The Peak District

 Lemon & Elderflower Celebration Cake

I made this cake to celebrate our friends’ recent nuptials when a group of us went away to the Peak District. I’d never baked a cake this big before but it was surprisingly simple to make and very tasty – if I do say so myself (it did also go down well with everyone else who ate it)! Recipe below, along with a few photos from our weekend away.

You will need:

450g golden caster sugar

450g self-raising flour

6 eggs

100g natural yoghurt

50ml milk

450g butter, at room temp

Zest of 1 lemon, plus the juice

3 tbsp elderflower cordial


For the icing:

250g butter, softened

300g cream cheese

700g icing sugar

Zest of 1 lemon


Heat your oven to 140c fan. Whisk the eggs, yogurt and milk together. Beat the butter and sugar together and when light and fluffy, add the flour, the liquid and lemon zest. Mix again until smooth. Divide the cake mixture between 3 x 20cm cake tins and bake for 40 mins, until a skewer comes out clean. Mix the lemon juice and elderflower cordial and when the cakes have cooled completely in the tins, poke all over the surface with a cocktail stick and then spoon the syrup over the cakes.

To make the icing, beat the butter until smooth, add half the icing sugar, then whisk again. Add the remaining icing sugar, cream cheese and lemon zest and whisk until smooth. 

Stack the three cakes with plenty of icing between each layer. Pile most of the remaining icing on top, then spread it across the top and down the sides, covering the cake in swirls. Decorate however you want! 

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

Peak District

17 Nov 2021

Photo Diary: An Autumnal Cabin In Norfolk

 Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

In September, Gary and I headed back to Norfolk for another ‘glamping’ experience. We went to the same place we stayed last year, only this time opting for the cabin instead of the yurts. Like the yurts, the cabin didn’t have electricity but it was just that bit more protected from the elements. And just like the yurts, there was a beautiful roll-top bath heated by a log-burning stove. It chucked it down for the majority of our two nights (although we did manage to squeeze in some star gazing and marshmallow toasting before the rain came) but this did result in some serious cosy autumnal vibes:

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk

Autumnal cabin in Norfolk