Thursday, 31 July 2014

Day 4 and 5 at the Manor: Canal Rides and Breakfast for Dinner

Toasting

So, Day 4 more people arrived and they went to see the castle too, we chilled and bonded over volleyball and Hide and Seek, and we had a sorry-you-missed-the-other-barbecue-barbecue for the newcomers which very excitingly involved roasting marshmallows. Roasted marshmallows are one of my all-time favourite things. Usually they are one of those let-down things that you get to do as the coals are turning white and a bit too cool to effectively caramelize them and there's only one spot hot enough to melt them, but these were fantastic, with a dedicated marshmallow-roasting fire. The soft, melty centre with the caramelised outside transports me back to summers when I was 12 or 13. There were some, erm, mishaps (think flaming marshmallow fireballs) but it actually became a really nice way to get to know everyone better.

Toasting Toasting

Day 5 was some more exploring, Martin's lovely Aunt had booked us a fantastic trip down the canal in a horse drawn canal boat. It was actually a really scenic and lovely experience and the horses were cute and the light bounced off the water. Being such a gigantic party (30 of us!) we took up an entire boat to ourselves which meant it was really nice not to have to share with strangers.  I got a good few photos of Martin's beautiful (and adorable) family, though I limited the 'holiday' snaps for the benefit of those reading! Then we went for lunch in a nearby pub (which was great but they neglected to tell us that the kitchen was closing shortly - so half of our party couldn't order. Not cool.) We went home for another dinner of an array of different cooked meats, stir-fried vegetables and rice. Really, I ought to have taken more photos of the food just to impress you with the sheer volume of it, (but also, of course, because it was fantastic looking, smelling and tasting, and enormously varied) I struggle to remember, but I seem to recall that this evening was the night we had leftover sausage from breakfast in fried rice (literally nothing seems to go to waste) and leftover beans and tomato just in case you fancied them with your rice. In the evening we sang Karaoke, though sadly I was limited to the choice of English songs. Side note: Martin's cousins are fantastic at Korean karaoke.

I'm writing this as we get ready to leave on our last day (7, the last blogs to follow shortly) with some half-hearted Karaoke drifting around the house and I'm thinking that I'm actually really going to miss this experience by the time we get in the car and drive off. There has been an obscene amount of chocolate, cake and ice cream consumed (I naively assumed that an entirely Chinese household was going to be the pinnacle of virtue where diet was concerned) so it had to end, but the huge gathering of family grouped around tables groaning with food and that sense of making friendships with lovely human beings will be missed.

In The Distance This Way Horse Drawn

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Manor, the Castle and Peculiar Dinners


The View
Hi everyone! So, like I said I'm blogging my day two and three of The Manor from The Manor. Day one has no photographic evidence, and really we just settled in (and for me it was meeting everyone, and trying to understand anything, and trying not to cry into my rice when I thought I had offended someone - yes, really. I hadn't, by the way!) The meeting of Martin's family was unexpectedly overwhelming and I did have to curl up in my little room and read my book for a bit just to recover. Luckily, the food was delicious - something I was worried about, being very fussy - and the people were lovely. I was surprised how little English was used even though Martin had prepared me for the experience that is the gathering of Cantonese speaking family members - for those who've never witnessed it, the sheer volume is enough to terrify! I've learned a few new words - mainly 'Good Morning' although I've yet to be able to use it as everyone says it in English to me. The manor is beautiful and grand and in some places so old. Breakfast keeps warm in the central stove and the washing up is done in the Belfast sink. There are so many nooks to sit and read or fall asleep.

Day Two was exactly as expected, we tried the pool and the jacuzzi - and I tried out my new swimsuit of course - and I interacted with children which is an entirely new experience for me as they generally terrify and confuse me, we played with three of Martin's cousins which were tiny and sweet and lovely. We also took a brief walk past and saw lovely cottages and so many flowers. Dinner was a barbecue (to celebrate everyone in the same place) which was obviously safe domain for me, and my potato salad was devoured, it's kind of becoming my speciality.

Butterfly Flowers
Day Two and Three

Day two we got up early to breakfast warming in the stove and we left for a stroll to the nearby Chirk castle. It ended up more of a hike - which I felt very prepared for in a sun dress and sandals. We met some sheep and some cows (terrifying) and there was a point where we thought it might rain which might have been very embarrassing for me, but we were lucky and by the time we got there the sun began to shine (and my sun dress felt more appropriate) in the gorgeous gardens of the castle. I got a picture with Martin's mum (mega Momma-points to me) and then we went a slightly shorter and less wildlife riddled track, but we had to edge sideways down the steep track in our inappropriate shoes. We came home to read, play ball games - all the 'young ones' - and settle down to a dinner of rice, stir-fried beef, vegetables, roast pork, lasagne and fish pie  (!)

The Rose Garden

Framed in Ivy

Friday, 25 July 2014

Flowers, Gingham, Blue 60s, Shropshire and Capsuling

Pink and Blue Packing

Hi everyone! I'm going away with Martin's family to Shropshire tomorrow for almost a week and I had to fit everything into a reasonably small bag - it wouldn't do to roll up with a massive suitcase would it? I made a sort of 'capsule' wardrobe, much smaller than the last one I posted, for what seems to be mostly bed-to-food-to-pool-to-food-to-bed based leisure, and by the looks of it they picked the right week for it! I inadvertently  ended up with an entirely themed selection of clothes (although I'll be honest, I added in a black bikini at the last minute.) but I love the blue theme, I'm like a little magpie for blue, I don't even realise but I just pick it over any other colour.

I'm wearing my vintage flowery dress for the first time this year, this time with some more 60s hair and possibly that belt, which i'm also thinking of using to change-up the denim dress I bought the other day. I decided against the pink dress in the end - too many repairs needed and too tight for a mainly 'sitting down' or 'stripping off' holiday, but the nice stretchy jersey crop top, a nice loose skirt and my beloved 60s smock dress are all nice and loose and comfy and pretty indestructible. Hopefully I'll be posting from our fantastic cottage location (I have to brag about the pool obviously..) I've been racking up some extra blog posts to supplement my next holiday (abroad, so less available wifi)  so at the very least i'll be pottering on with those.

Pink and Blue Packing

Pink and Blue Packing

Pink and Blue Packing

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Some basics for summer, free flowing hair and leaving the house

A Few Summer Basics

So I've been trying to write a post for what seems like weeks, and getting nowhere with it. I was trying to talk about how I hadn't been feeling fantastic about my body, my wardrobe and my style, and how it had resulted in spending a few days a little disengaged from instagram and from going out and really doing anything in particular at all. I've come back, because I realised that you really have to work at this blog thing and even when it feels like it's not rewarding you must remember that all blogs move at their own pace.

On Monday Martin and I went for lunch in town at one of the few not-chain restaurants here in Coventry which is just by our lovely (roof-less) cathedral. Though the roof and windows were destroyed in the blitz, i'm always thrilled by so much of the intricacy of the walls and all the lovely doors and passageways that stood through it, so we took these pictures in front of one. I wore a brand new outfit after buying some nice basics for summer. I needed a new pair of sandals and I also spied this lovely dress from H&M which I thought was completely workable into a 60s vibe, what with the high neck and the nice length. My hair was doing it's own thing, (10am run followed by a hasty shower and blow-dry will do that to a girl) especially after the walk in the town, so in the end I gave up with the bobby pins and let it flow free. It's definitely time for a trim to sort my fringe out though!

A Few Summer Basics

Friday, 11 July 2014

Cake as a Life Skill and More is More

sponge and florals

Sometimes when life is stressful you want (need?) cake, probably the reason mum insisted I bake one. I didn't have work, it wasn't particularly sunny and I had no plans so I did. I spent pretty much an entire day on this cake, doing each individual part with rests in between for cooling and cleaning and things. (you might have seen the picture on Instagram already.) I love baking, I find it very therapeutic. I also find the unbaked batter very delicious, oops. The recipe called for a half-batch of buttercream icing but in the picture it looked a bit meagre, more is more I think when it comes to baking, especially when it's cake decorating - I find it always takes more than you expect if you want a really picture-perfect look and luxuriousness about it. I also used Mum's homemade 'Rivendell' Jam (Rivendell is what she's named our garden which I find quite magical) for the filling and it was good. It's full of all the wonderful berries that grow in our garden over summer. The recipe also called for brown caster sugar and a little cornflour. We only had muscovado, so I used that, and the combination of the two gave the sponge an unconventionally dark appearance but a gloriously nutty taste, and a really moist sponge. I hate to toot my own horn but it really was a good cake. When the family came home, Martin and I cooked dinner that we ate as a family and then settled down to The Lego Movie with a handful of this cake. It was a wonderfully lazy day but I think doing something like baking gives you that sense of accomplishment so that it doesn't feel wasted. I haven't baked/iced a cake in ages so it's good to know I've still got it. Maybe it's a skill that's like driving and you never forget it. ;)

If you're interested, the recipe came from a book by The Hummingbird Bakery. x

sponge and florals

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Flowers and Poor Timing and Triumph

Up on purple hill


So, next time you're exploring in Britain, you have to remember some things. First, your umbrella. And your sunglasses. Second, a change of shoes, or, just sensible shoes to begin with. Thirdly, that not everywhere is the same as where you come from and little villages are sometimes too quiet to stay open from lunch until dinner.

Last Monday Martin and I took a walk to a nearby village called Kenilworth (anyone heard of Kenilworth Castle?) this big, beautiful mound of colour was in fact an entrance to get there, whilst we were still optimistic about food in our bellies! The walk is over an hour, but it's along a main road that gets increasingly rural the further down it you walk. It was nice and picturesque, passing woods to begin with, until it opened out onto corn fields and other fields. Then an ominous grey cloud moved over the sun and we found ourselves very quickly pulling on jackets and getting the brolly out! We got soaked, despite the umbrella, and my be-sandaled feet got quite wet. Still, it went quickly and the glorious sunshine came out, and then we took this photo. At the time I was still optimistic we'd have a longer day filled with photo-taking but after getting ignored in one cafe and greeted with a 'closed' sign in the others, we made the decision to get the bus home, grab a 'chippy' and go home. 

Still, it was a really nice triumphant feeling to find our way there, i've only ever been driven to Kenilworth before, and the walk was pretty enjoyable and funny and it was just really pleasant to hold hands and stroll and talk for an hour. We're going to go back (and erm, possibly take the bus this time!) a little earlier and get some lunch and do Kenilworth Castle. Here's to not failing a miserably next time!


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Happy Birthday's and Secrets and Working Really Hard

happy birthday

It was Martin's birthday the other day and also our '6 months being together' anniversary, though it feels much longer. I'd been working away on this gift for a while and it sucked up a lot of my time to begin with, which is one of the things that kept me away from blogging, but of course I couldn't mention it! It's strange because I didn't know how to give him his gift, couples that live together wake up in the morning and hand it over with a coffee or breakfast in bed. I didn't want to just thrust it into his hands on the doorstep, so I arranged a little set up for present receiving. I was picking flowers from the garden for a little bouquet and ended up with a kind of yellow theme, so I stuck with it. I made ginger beer and orange juice - it's great, with just a little kick - with orange slices and strawberries and ice.

I made him a cookbook, along with a few other gifts on the same theme, but I also made the wrapping paper myself by just writing on brown parcel paper. It takes a few tries but it looks really nice, and is a cheaper way of making parcel paper pretty, rather than expensive ribbons or strings. I included a phone picture of the book I made but you can also have a look at the preview (and buy it !) here. A lot of it is fairly basic but they're all tried-and-true, and I needed to give Martin the base knowledge. I think it's nice to know these recipes all came from my home. Afterwards we went for a nice, but cheap meal as a small celebration and we're saving a more elegant meal for when I've got a little more money!

It was really rewarding to work on something completely organic, I set it out as a 'project' where I documented inspiration and development, just like our Uni briefs, and the look on his face was amazing. I think people really love when you pour your heart into something just for them, and it gave me a chance to practice and utilise my talents.

happy birthday

The Book happy birthday happy birthday

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