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Weekends at the Seaside

It was another good food-filled weekend round these parts. Ian and I headed to Minehead for the annual Ale and Cider Festival and to start his 30th birthday celebrations. We try to go most years as we can stay with my parents and not have to worry about a designated driver – ideal!

Held at Minehead train station, this little festival has grown over the years since we started going and it was packed when we arrived on Saturday afternoon. We sampled a few ales and ciders and enjoyed the sunshine sat alongside the train tracks. I loved some of the ale names – my particular favourite this year was ‘Brew Springsteen’ and who doesn’t love a good beer pun?!

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We had a little beer break to go and eat at my Dad’s new restaurant (review coming soon!) but popped back along that evening for a night cap or two. There were live bands playing old school metal which we loved and it was such a good atmosphere – we’re already looking forward to next year!

Today we had a lazy morning, a spot of shopping and then just had time to watch my brother play (and win!) in his tennis final before driving home.

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I have a super busy week ahead with meetings, courses, birthdays and house guests as well as the usual craziness of teaching so posts may be slightly sporadic as I try to fit in work and sleep!

 

This Week’s Nails – Essie’s Hide and Go Chic

I don’t usually dedicate a whole post to a new nail varnish but I think I can make an exception for Essie!

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I was on the look-out for a deep autumnal shade for my nails and fell in love with this colour. Hide and Go Chic (gotta love the name!) is from Essie’s Spring 2014 collection but I think it is well suited to this time of year. It is a deep, jewelled blue turquoise but very easy to wear.

The formula is great and you could probably get away with just one coat but I layered on a second just so that it lasted a bit longer.

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I paired this colour with a set of nail wraps, also from Essie. This gorgeous calligraphy print, Love to Love You, was really easy to apply and have so far lasted well after 4 days.

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It’s Bake Off time now so I’m afraid today’s post is going to be short but sweet! x

 

Restaurant Review – Grillstock, Bath

Another restaurant review from the archives today as Ian and I actually went for dinner at Grillstock over the summer but it made a good impression on me and stuck in my mind.

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First of all I should warn you that there is an obscene amount of meat in this post – we actually ended up taking a few doggy bags home with us that provided lunch for the next two days!

Located in The Vaults in Bath, we had the option of squeezing in to an inside table (next to a screaming toddler!) or enjoying the sunshine and eating al fresco…no contest really!

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We had a couple of beers whilst we perused the menu (both ones we have tried in the States) and tried to narrow down our choices. I know the Deep South American BBQ-style cuisine is ridiculously trendy at the moment but my Dad has been making ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings in this style for years so I personally am overjoyed this food is having its moment in the spotlight.

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Unable to choose between ribs, burger and hot dogs, we went for the ‘Grand Champion’…pretty much a bit of everything from the menu on a sharing tray. It’s fair to say we were slightly overwhelmed when the tray arrived. Ian also picked this exact moment to get more drinks so I was sat alone at a table with this enormous portion of food looking like an absolute pig! Haha

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This feast contained pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, BBQ chicken, a hot dog, link sausages, burnt bits, BBQ beans, brisket chili, cornbread, pickles, coleslaw and a mountain of chili fries…phew!

I set to work on the ribs (my favourite) whilst Ian polished off the hot dog (our favourites) then we tried a little bit of everything. My highlights were the ribs, chicken and the little pots of BBQ beans and chilli although I have to admit that after a while the flavours did slightly merge into one. The pulled pork was a little dry although we did get a selection of sauces on our table.

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This platter was £35 and considering how great they were about bagging up the leftovers for us, I think this was pretty good value for money. Suffice to say, we were stuffed when we left and you could definitely share this between 3, or maybe 4 if you aren’t as greedy as me! x

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Latest Purchases #58 – Birchbox Freebies

I have been receiving my monthly Birchbox for over a year now and filling out the occasional questionnaire on the products they send. All of these have earned me Birchbox ‘points’ which had been piling up in my account and a big chunk of them were due to expire so I thought it was time to cash them in!

I had a quick browse through the Birchbox shop and picked enough goodies to get free delivery which meant I only had to contribute 84p for over £30 worth of stuff.

Here are the four things I picked:

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First up an old favourite that was on my repurchase list anyway: Weleda Skin Food. I first tried this in a Birchbox and loved it. This whole body cream is a bit of a wonder product, kind of like Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream but with a better smell! I have used this on dry skin patches, my lips and mostly as a night cream when my skin needed a moisture boost. Weleda uses lots of natural ingredients and plant extracts so it’s a bonus to know you aren’t piling on the chemicals.

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Next, I was in the market for a new face scrub and this one popped up on the Bestsellers page which persuaded me! I bought the Radiance Exfoliating Face Polish by Urban Veda which claims to brighten and balance your skin tone whilst exfoliating. It smells amazing too, containing superfruits such as Goji berries and papaya.

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Next, I wanted a new bronzer to keep my holiday glow going for as long as possible and I had heard good things about the Model Co one. This comes in a sleek pink palette with a mirror which is always handy. The powder has a lovely gold shimmer and isn’t too dark for my pale complexion. Although it is a pressed powder, there is almost something creamy about it when I ran my fingers across it which makes me think it could be good for an eyeshadow too. I really like this bronzer and am keen to try a few more things from the brand.

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Finally, I was about 20p short of free delivery so I popped a packet of this popcorn into my bag by ProperCorn. I had this flavour (Sweet Coconut and Vanilla) in a Birchbox a few months ago and thought it was delicious so I will enjoy this larger bag even more!

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I know some people think beauty boxes such as Birchbox have had their day, and there always seems to be a new company coming on to the market, but for me I still love my monthly Birchbox and the fact that they reward loyalty in this way is pretty fab too.

 

Football, Food Markets and Vintage Finds

The above title pretty much sums up my weekend!

After a fun Friday night spent with my brother’s girlfriend and one too many JD and cokes, I was up and out early on Saturday to meet my best friend Lu and her family for a spot of shopping, lunch and then to watch Bristol City play. We won 2-0 and the sun shone too – perfect.

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Today, Ian and I headed to Frome Independent Market. I have written about this market before and we try to go each month for a wander and to pick up some treats.

I headed straight to one of my favourite stalls, Dark Matters, to pick up a few of their incredible brownies. I chose their peanut butter and chocolate one, a mint choc chip brownie and a rose, hazelnut and pistachio variety…worth spoiling the diet for!

As well as brownies, I also picked up some cheeses, some heirloom tomatoes to recreate my orzo pasta recipe and Ian found a lovely Scrumpy cider stall where we bought a few litres.

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As always, we had a spot of lunch there. I opted for a dirty beef brisket baguette which was topped with pickles, BBQ sauce and a pot of the cooking liquid. Whilst eating, we watched some great local bands – my favourite was a punk band called Killing Felix who were ace.

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Finally, we had a wander around the huge selection of vintage stalls and picked up a few things for our house. We have wanted a new coffee table for a little while but couldn’t quite decide on one we both liked but when I saw this vintage trunk, I thought it would be perfect.

It has been painted in a chalky grey colour and I like the fact it isn’t a traditional four-legged table to add a bit of interest. We may move this to another room in the future but for now we are going to trial it as our new coffee table.

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The next one is a bit of a strange purchase but one I have been on the lookout for in vintage shops for absolutely ages! On an interiors website about a year ago, I saw an old wooden ladder used as a scarf and belt holder leant against a bedroom wall. It looked amazing and is a great way to actually see the scarves you have whilst adding a pop of colour to a room. I will post a few pictures when I get this set up in our new bedroom.

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The rest of the day will be fairly chilled out for us but we will definitely be having a cheeseboard tonight to try our new buys! x

 

Recipe – Orzo Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

It seems as though we have had another little burst of summer this week and I have found myself savouring what may be the last of the sunshine with sleeveless dresses and all the windows open.

To celebrate this, I decided to make a vibrant and summery dish using an ingredient that was new to me – orzo pasta.

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Reminiscent of risotto rice, these little pasta pieces are great as a soup base, mixed with a sauce or served as a chilled salad. I made a dish that would be great eaten warm or cold the next day and it looked and tasted amazing!

First of all, how could you not enjoy these beautiful heirloom tomatoes?

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We have had a go at growing two different varieties of tomatoes this summer and are just finishing the fruits of our labour. It has made me appreciate really good quality ingredients, especially when so much of the supermarket veggies taste so bland or is that just me?!

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After looking at a few orzo recipes for inspiration, I noticed several of them recommended cooking the pasta in stock to add some additional flavour. I liked this and saved a few tablespoons of the liquid to use as a light ‘sauce’ rather than drizzle a load of oil over the pasta and it worked really well.orzo12

Ingredients

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1 chicken stock cube

150g of orzo pasta

1 punnet of heirloom tomatoes, halved (normal cherry tomatoes would also work)

A handful of fresh basil

A ball of mozzarella cheese or a tub of the mini mozzarella pearls

Salt and pepper

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How to make it

  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and crumble in your stock cube
  • Pour in the orzo pasta and cook until al dente
  • Drain the pasta leaving a bit of stock in the pan
  • Mix through the tomatoes and some basil and cook on a light heat for a few minutesorzo7
  • Add the mozzarella balls and season wellorzo8
  • Serve with a little more fresh basil and enjoy!orzo2

Book Corner – My Holiday Reads

I think it was over a year ago that I started some little features called ‘Book Corner’ where I shared the latest novels I had been reading. It sounds dreadful (especially as a teacher who is constantly promoting reading to her class!) but I really got out of the habit of a good book. I always had one on the go but didn’t really make time to read or keep my ear to the ground about interesting new releases. I think it was also the time I was subscribing to several magazines and then I discovered blogs so although I was constantly reading, proper books didn’t really get a look in.

Fast forward to now and my passion has been reignited! I am devouring books on a weekly basis and while I realise that it is very easy to find the time for a few chapters and a coffee during the summer holidays, I am determined to keep it up and head up to bed a bit earlier to enjoy my current read rather than the TV.

I wish I could photograph some lovely hardbacks but due to the speed I read on holiday (about one book a day) and luggage limitations, I ended up purchasing these titles on my trusty Kindle. I’m not in either camp when it comes to modern e-readers or the real deal books. In my opinion, the words, paragraphs and stories are the same and whilst I understand some people enjoy the tactile experience of turning a page, I personally just appreciate a good book whether it is in paper or electronic form.

First up, I read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I absolutely adore his other books so I really hoped he could keep it up as I was desperate to love this one too. I really enjoyed it and started reading as soon as the plane took off. Whilst I don’t think it is quite as rounded as The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, it is beautifully written and once again describes an Afghanistan that we almost can’t imagine given the images we constantly see on the news. This book jumps through time but is easy to follow and although tragic, I really love that Hosseini avoids an unrealistically happy ending. I would definitely recommend this one.

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Next, something slightly less cheery but a subject that fascinates me nonetheless: Escape From Camp 14. This is the shocking story of a North Korean prisoner who was born into one of the country’s secretive prison camps but managed to escape to China. This is his personal account blended with North Korean history which gives context to his story. It is hard to comprehend what he went through (the book details the hideous torture both he and his fellow prisoners endured) and I really liked the fact that the book did not end with his escape but also documented his struggle to live in the West. One would assume this would equate to a happy ending but you get a real sense of how lost the author still feels without the boundaries and rules of prison life. This one was quite a tough read but I recommend it if you are as interested as I am in this fascinating country.

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I wouldn’t be a proper blogger if I didn’t include John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. I jest but this book does seem to be ridiculously trendy at the moment which led to me having high expectations for it. I think having two pretty cool teenage characters is probably one of the reasons for its commercial success with people in their twenties but I did enjoy this one. It’s not your typical ‘cancer book’ although I did sit on my sunbed with tears rolling down my face on several occasions…quite a look! I loved the cute Amsterdam storyline and I think it is a really easy read – perfect to take away on a mini-break.

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I had heard a lot of good things about The Book Thief but my first impressions after the initial chapters weren’t great. The story is written from Death’s point of view which is kind of interesting but it adds a lot of waffle too. I grew to love the story and the characters by the end but I can’t help but feel that it would have been much better as a traditional narrative. I think that having Death as the main voice of the book left things slightly disjointed for me. Warning: this is another tear-jerker!

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Finally, I bought Elephant Moon as a little extra in case I finished the all others (I did!) and found it to be a really sweet book. Based on a true story, it documents a school teacher rescuing orphaned girls from Burma during World War Two and taking them through the jungles with a herd of elephants to India. The start of the book painted a great picture of colonial Burma, with tensions rising between the locals and the English who would frequent their croquet clubs for endless G&Ts. I found the story gripping in places but whereas the descriptions at the beginnings of the book allowed you to get a real feel for the atmosphere at the time, it soon galloped on and came to a really abrupt end. I felt like the book was almost unfinished and I hate that unsatisfied feeling when you have finished a book!

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I am always on the lookout for good book recommendations so I hope you find the above useful and I don’t think I have given away too many spoilers!

Have you read any books lately that you just couldn’t put down? x

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