ctrl b



About six months ago, I got my first tattoo.

For years, I'd thought about having one, never sure what to choose, never quite brave enough. When I changed career it felt right to mark this immense turning point in some way, and one day I woke up brave. I chose a symbol that's been in my life for as long as I can remember, one that reminds me of my childhood, and that has relevance to my new work.

I booked the appointment. I told no one. I went alone, nervous but excited. It hurt, but not as much as I'd expected. What surprised me was how fast the tattooist worked; it was all over in about five minutes.

I lived with it for months, just a black outline on my arm. Not particularly loud or conspicuous, it sometimes surprised me; I'd forget it was there.

Last week, I went to have it changed, filled in, made bold. That hurt a lot more than the first time, and took longer, but it was still not an intolerable pain.

Since then, more people have spotted it and commented. Perhaps because it's bigger and darker, perhaps because it's summer and I don't have it covered up - who knows? Most people are curious about the symbol and what it means. Some want to know if I think I'll regret it, most of all my mother.

'You'll regret that when you're in the old people's home,' she said to me on Monday. Perhaps she's right... The way I see it, if I make it to an old people's home I will have a. retired (unlikely, given my poor pension provision), and b. not died young. Both of these things should and would make me lucky and happy, as would memories of a life well lived. If I'm moping around there, regretting my tattoo, please remind me what's important.

Please remind me I was bold.


27/52



I've lived in Bristol pretty much my whole life, centrally, close to the heart of this city of beauty and grime, of wealth and extreme poverty, of utter delights and contradictions. Memories of Kingsdown, my childhood hood, are of a creative enclave perched on top of the hill, the smoke and colour and messy charm of Bristol spilling out before us in a jumbled, thrilling expanse.

This was back at the start of Thatcher's reign. The St Paul's Riots took place when I was three-and-a-half and I remember clearly the feeling of that neighbourhood being one of notoriety and danger. Driving through was a necessity, getting us from home to the bottom of the motorway and out to the rest of the country, and I would peer out of the window, fascinated by the people and the places I saw as we whizzed past.

St Pauls still thrills, on no weekend more than carnival weekend. Heading down at midday to catch the procession of kids from local schools dressed up, alongside bands and dancers, the kids were awestruck at the sights but most of all the sounds. Loud samba bands and passers-by blowing whistles were deemed 'too noisy!' by both, until they got their hands on a whistle of their own.

Heading down to the main stage, through the stalls and food sellers, slices of watermelon and cans of Red Stripe along every street, you could see a kind of mesmerised delight in their eyes, both boys enjoying the music and the excitement of the new.

One of my children enjoyed himself far more than the other (regular readers will be able to work out which one I'm talking about!), and I caught a glimpse of what might be when T's energy is channelled in positive ways. Is this wayward child of mine harbouring a major creative spark? Reckon he could be a performer. Actually, what am I saying? Already is.

25/52




A: 'I've got a good idea! HOT DOGS!' (Merci, Muppets)
T: Growing, growing, growing, into the light

It's been weeks since I last posted a set of 52 portraits. Not really sure why; perhaps a bit of the not sharing thing I was going on about the other day, or maybe just a reluctance to post portraits that aren't beautiful, just to make the set (we've got enough of that with the Panini World Cup stickers at the moment). Anyway, these pics made me happy, and so here they are.

We've already made good use of the longest day of the year; this morning's activities include plenty of toast and honey (and a quadruple espresso), making a cuddly toy hospital, adding to my midsummer Spotify playlist, and swaying in the hammock with the new issue of Lionheart (more about this another day).

And tomorrow? A lie in, followed by a barbecue in the park with friends - ones who make me laugh 'til it hurts.

Enjoy this precious solstice weekend.


Looking out, looking in





There are times when it feels right to write and there are times when it does not.

A couple of weeks back, we spent seven days in France. Likely to be our one holiday of the year, we did all the holiday-ish things you'd expect: sun, barbecue, sea, ice cream, pool, repeat.

Ordinarily, I would have been snapping away, taking photograph after photograph both for the family album and for here. A few days into the holiday, I realised I just wasn't taking pictures in the way I normally do. And that realisation didn't prompt me to try harder.

Instead, the few pics I took were of views: from the beach; from a house we visited; the most incredible view; and the blue, blue sky. Looking out.

The looking in? Well, we did family stuff. Made memories that no one else knows about. Memories just for us.

Not everything needs to be shared.

(But if you really, REALLY want to see where we went and what we did, it's more or less the same thing we did last year, and the year before, and the places we went then. We're a bit dull like that.)

Bristol 07 / Beetlegeuse





As kids, my brother and I were OBSESSED with Beetlejuice. Actually, I think I might be obsessed with it still.

And so are the Food and Theatre Company, who are putting on a one night only evening of innovative performance, fine dining, and foodie fun. Journey from the Maitland’s house, to the Corridor of Lost souls, to the Waiting room of the Afterlife; with live music and adventurous food, this is going to be a truly interactive experience. Cannot wait.

Beetlegeuse takes place on 14 June 2014, 6.45-11pm, at a secret location in central Bristol.

Full price tickets cost £30 (group discounts available for 6 or more), available from the Food and Theatre Company website.

Just don't say it three times!

A new outlook



I am obsessed with Scandi dramas like The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge, not just for the brilliant plots, the writing, and the acting, but also for the glimpse into the super stylish world of Danish and Swedish design.

For a while now, I've wanted to recreate the beautiful glass shelves that sat across the Birk Larsen's kitchen windows, thinking they'd be the perfect place for beautiful crockery, glassware, and a few herbs and houseplants. And here they are: two glass shelves spanning two of the four windows in the kitchen. I love them for their practicality, clean look, and for a bit of added privacy they offer.

Got a new little nook of your own? You have one day left to blog about it for the Mollie Makes summer homestyle competition - read all about it here! The winner's photograph will appear in Mollie Makes 43.

Go!


Bristol's hidden gems



Bristol is full of hidden gems. Regular readers will know that I have a series of posts dedicated to showcasing my favourite haunts, but here’s a round-up of my current faves:

Bravas
The food here is utter perfection, and it turns me into the greediest girl going. I would eat and eat and never stop, given the chance, so it’s lucky this place is so packed you have to call weeks ahead to get a table. Proper Spanish tapas, wall-to-wall cava, and a buzzy bar make Bravas my number one place to eat in Bristol.

Royal Fort Gardens
As a child, I played in these gardens, owned by the University of Bristol, in all seasons. I have strong memories of sledging down the slope, narrowly avoiding the iced-over pond at the bottom, and there are albums full of photographs of my brother and I playing in the brick-lined sculpture park tucked away around the back. With beautiful Baroque, Palladian and Rococco buildings rising up at the top of the hill, it’s a truly charming refuge at the heart of the city.

The Old Bookshop
Cocktails in a cosy, converted bookshop? These are not words to say lightly to a boozy, bookish type. The Old Bookshop offers guaranteed good times: a short but exciting food menu, ace tunes, great drinks, and a jolly vibe makes for one helluva night.

Papadeli
You can tell everything about a deli by its range of olives and cakes, I reckon, and Papadeli scores tops on both. The staff are amazingly knowledgeable and friendly, the shop and cafes (there are two) are fresh and bright, and the food – the food! – is proper picnic perfection.

Something Else
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of owning a shop, Something Else is equal parts heaven and hell. Heaven, as it’s everything you’d want a shop to be, and hell, because you didn’t get there first. Packed with independent magazines, artworks, interesting stationery, and cool bits and bobs, Something Else is run by supercool couple, Sidonie and Kyle, who also run their graphic design business (Something Good) from the other side of the counter.

Birch
This place is so new I haven’t yet visited! But it’s on my list, as it’s the newest neighbourhood restaurant on my patch. Pared back décor caught my attention each time I walked past during its development, and a simple menu in the window has whetted my appetite enough to book a table in the next couple of weeks. I will report back!

Stylist and Links of London asked me to share my hidden gems of Bristol as part of their Hidden Gems campaign - add your own hidden gem for your chance to win £1000 of Links of London jewellery. The rules are simple:
1. Take a photo or write about your favourite place to go in your city
2. Upload it to Twitter @Links_of_London or Instagram @linksoflondon
3. Hashtag your post #linkshiddengems

Written in association with Links of London;
as usual, all words are my own.




Blogtacular 2014





All images above courtesy of Mollie Makes

Now that I'm back from my days in the book promotion wilderness, I've got a lot of catching up to do. So much has happened these past few weeks, not least of which was Blogtacular.

Oh em gee, it truly was BLOGTACULAR!

A highlight for me was Kat Molesworth (one of the two Kat-monikered powerhouses behind Blogtacular) in her closing speech, swallowing back the tears as she told the audience of a dream she had - an actual asleep dream - back in May 2013 about an awesome blog conference called Blogtacular. When she woke, she was furious for days that it wasn't real. So, she called t'other Kat, suggested they make it real, and Kat agreed. How amazing are those two women? I find myself constantly impressed and taken aback by their chutzpah, dedication, and hard work. They are an inspiration.

To the weekend itself - well, what blogger wouldn't want to be in a room with 200 other bloggers, all of whom know the truly rewarding and life changing power of self-publishing? It felt like a life-changing moment; that energy was palpable. A highlight was Anne Ditmeyer of Pret-a-Voyager confirming something I knew all along when she said 'bloggers are awesome. If they don’t know how to do something they’ll learn it.' THAT x a million.

The other highlight was hanging out with my Mollie Makes ladies. We shared a dorm room and it felt just like a school trip; we had the best fun. Here we are hanging out with Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

(Thanks to Mollie Makes for the image)




Oh, and how could I forget Xanthe Berkeley's photo walk? Who knew that all it would take was bloggers, balloons, and Mayfair to completely change the way I take photographs forever? The colours were something else.




Yep. Blogtacular, alright.

Have a look at the highlights video below for a taste of what happened, and sign up for a virtual conference ticket here where you can view all but three of the workshops and speakers.



Blogtacular 2014 from Kat Molesworth on Vimeo.

A little distracted....



Three whole weeks have passed by without me writing here. The reason? The book I co-wrote was published at the beginning of this month, and it's been non-stop. I'm not sure I've talked that much here about the book - The Mount Athos Diet - before, so here's the lowdown.

Back in 2008, we three authors (Sue Todd, who I first met when she edited the BBC Food website and I was a researcher; Richard Storey, my father, who has been going to Mount Athos as a pilgrim for around 13 years now; and I) developed The Mount Athos Diet. Based on a centuries old way of eating, the diet consists of three different eating patterns over the course of a week: Fast Days - virtually fat-free, vegan (x3 days); Moderation Days - classic low-fat Mediterranean diet (x3 days); and a Feast Day - eat whatever you want.

The monks of Mount Athos are an exceptionally healthy population; researchers have studied their diet and lifestyle to find out what causes the inhabitants of this monastic state in Halkidiki to live such long lives, with rarely any instances of cancer or dementia. A combination of regular, traditional Greek Orthodox fasts, a lack of processed foods, plenty of fresh air and exercise, plus the peaceful life of the monastery are all contributing factors, and it is this combination that forms the basis of our diet book. Of course, life isn't quite as peaceful for the rest of us, but the idea is to incorporate as much of the good stuff into our Western lives as possible.

It has taken six years of research, writing, perseverance, hard work, and determination to get to this point, where our book is on sale, and I couldn't be more proud. Always an ambition to have my name on a book, the novelty hasn't yet worn off.

And, since the beginning of May, we've spotted the book in quite a few magazines and newspapers, and have appeared on local radio. So it's all a bit exciting, really. And here's hoping I'll get back to more regular blogging soon.

If you'd like to find out more about the book, head over to Amazon or Hive, or like our page on Facebook.

A room of one's own

Image from here
We live in a two-bedroomed house that, with two growing boys, is beginning to feel a little cramped. The kids share their bedroom and we've noticed that they don't always get on so well. With that in mind, we're thinking of converting the attic into two bedrooms - one for each boy - and a shower room.

Whenever I begin to hatch an interiors plan, I head straight to Pinterest for inspiration. Of course, there is a huge amount of incredible images over there, and I've collected some in this attic board:






However the rooms turn out (eventually!), I know they will feature VELUX® windows - perfect for the first rays of light each morning; for listening to the rain pour down when you're safe and warm inside; and on clear, dark nights, telescope directed to the sky, for star-gazing.

Visit the VELUX shop for more ideas.


18/52



Another bank holiday weekend came and went, in a flurry of weather forecasts and picnics and family get togethers. We headed west, over that space age bridge, to Wales; Caerphilly for castle fun. Before we left, the boys dressed as knights (or in Ted's case, an odd hybrid combining Superman, a flashing pirate cut less, and medieval shield), and defined roles: the boys were both brave knights; Ben was King Daddy; and I was deemed a princess. Hmm. I had to confirm that I was, perhaps, a bad ass princess, or maybe an evil queen. Even a dragon would do. But no, they insisted it was Princess Mummy (vom), a nickname that has endured all week. Think it means we need to introduce a few more Mighty Girls into this house.

Been super quiet round here recently, just so busy with all kinds of work and stuff and things. But tomorrow, I'm off to Blogtacular for two whole days (and nights) of wall-to-wall bloggery. Cannot wait! Come say hi if you're going.
Joining in with Jodi's 52 project

Introducing: Nanos




The kind people at Nanos, a Spanish clothes brand for kids, sent some t-shirts and shorts over for the boys, plus this giant pink fluffy cuddly toy, which has rapidly become THE favourite toy in the house.

I hadn't heard of Nanos before, but I'm glad they're now on my radar. Today, a Nanos flash sale - with prices at 50-70% off RRP - will pop up on vente-privee UK opening at 6am with very limited stock.

If you're already a member of vente-privee, head here to shop the sale. Not yet a member? Registration is super quick and easy here.

vente-privee is the biggest flash sale shopping club in Europe with over 20 million members and more than 2,500 designer brands. This week alone, I've been browsing a Camper shoes sale, and one of Paul and Joe Sister. Uh oh, this could get dangerous!

Thanks to Nanos and vente-privee for sending clothes and toys. All words and thoughts are my own.

Blogtacular 2014



Just a little bit excited about this... I'm going to Blogtacular!

What's Blogtacular? I'll leave it to formidable founders, Kat and Kat, to explain:

'Blogtacular is a place for bloggers whose hearts beat with creativity to come together to meet, share and inspire. This is a place for people who create vibrant and original content to discuss their work, fill their minds with new ideas and to collaborate with fellow bloggers.'


'No matter what you blog about; if you love great quality content and beautiful design you’ll find yourself at home at Blogtacular. Blogtacular brings together some of the hottest talent from the online world. We’ll have a schedule packed full of innovation, inspiration and mind blowing points of view.'

I'm looking to so much about this event: getting together with fellow bloggers, meeting virtual friends offline, learning loads, and hearing the awesome speakers and taking part in inspiring workshops.

Tickets are selling fast, so make sure you bag one before they're gone. Blogtacular takes place on 9 and 10 May 2014, in London town. See you there, I hope.

Recipe: Courtesan au Chocolat



I love a culinary challenge. Macarons? Tick. Chocolate honeycomb? Tick. Rhubarb and vanilla jam? Tick. But patisserie? Tricky.

I attempted choux buns once. Let's just say that the end result didn't make the blog. But if anyone can persuade me to give it another go it's Wes Anderson (I think he could persuade me to anything).

If you've seen The Grand Budapest Hotel you'll know that an extraordinary cake features heavily: the Courtesan au Chocolat. Created by fictional bakery, Mendl's, the Courtesan au Chocolat is modelled heavily on the Religeuse, a classic French pastry. And for the curious bakers in the audience, Wes Anderson made the short instructional film below:



A few weeks back I made a batch of Courtesans - partly to see if I could do it, and partly because it's about as close as I'll get to the Republic of Zubrowka and that big old beautiful hotel on the side of a snowy mountain.

Courtesan au Chocolat

For the choux buns:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup water
1/4 lb butter
4 eggs, beaten
A pinch of salt
A larger pinch of sugar

Bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to the boil. Remove from the heat and mix in the sifted flour. Return to the heat for a few minutes, quickly stirring and cook until the dough forms a single lump.
Allow to cool enough to keep the eggs from cooking, and stir them in gradually using a strong wooden spoon.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag and pipe into dollops, in three sizes - tablespoon, teaspoon, hazelnut - a dozen of each.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-35 minutes (the smaller buns will cook more quickly so check).
Remove from the oven, make a small piercing in the bottom of each bun to allow steam to escape.

For the chocolate creme patissiere:
1.5 cups milk
Several large pieces dark chocolate (I used about 100g)
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 spoons cocoa powder
1tbsp flour
Cornstarch, to thicken

Heat the milk and add the chocolate, stir to melt.
Whisk the egg yolks, flour, sugar, cocoa and cornstarch to a smooth mixture.
Add half the hot chocolate to the bowl, a bit at a time, stirring all the time.
Add this back to the rest of the hot milk, stirring over a gentle heat for a few minutes until thickened to a custard.
Remove from heat and chill.
Once cooled, spoon into a pastry bag and pipe into the centre of the large and medium pastry balls.

To decorate:
Icing sugar
A dash of vanilla
Milk, to thin
White chocolate, melted
Pale blue icing, to use as glue
Cocoa beans, to decorate

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, adding the vanilla and milk until you reach the desired consistency.
Separate into three small bowls, and add food colouring: lavender (large buns), pale green (medium buns), and pink (small buns).
Dip each pastry into the icing to its midline. Place on a tray and leave to dry.
Decorate with filigree of white chocolate.
Place a dollop of pale blue icing atop the large ball, place the medium on top and press to stick in place.
Repeat with the small ball.
Make a small buttercream star on top and place a single cocoa bean onto the star as a garnish.

................

As you can see, it's not a recipe for the fainthearted. But the end result? Not bad. The choux buns were light and crisp; the chocolate creme patissiere, dense and dark; and the sweet icing may have been teeth-hurty but these are not your everyday snack, after all. Just be careful when you bite in - as dainty as they are, you may struggle to look quite so chic as they collapse, conveniently, into your mouth.

16/52




A: My beautiful boy; feel like this was a rare moment captured
T: New best friend, Kermit (or is that Constantine?)

It's Easter weekend, and I'm properly ready for a couple of days of baking, fun and chocolate. Yesterday didn't even require washing and dressing; instead, we kicked about in the garden. The kids were dressed as super heroes all day, we listened to music, danced, messed about, and ate tea in the treehouse.

Oh, for days like this.

Have a glorious long weekend, lovely people.

(PS Enjoy those Eastering skies.)


Joining in with Jodi's 52 project


Spring loves



Spring is well and truly in my heart this year; just a few small things are all it takes to shift my mood at the moment.

1 & 2. Days at the park: high winds, kite flying, cold wine drinking

3. Lovely stationery sent to the kids by Sticker Stack

4. New (and newly framed) prints, including Deedee Cheriel (above), You Sentimental Idiot, and this (rude words!) one from Society6

5. A box of delights: Birchbox sent me this month's lovely collection of make up


And more:
My new perfume

Not one but two cover gifts with the new issue of Mollie Makes

Lovely jewellery

The annual planting of my favourites, the sweet peas (a few from last year's harvest)

A sunny playlist

Pondering new summer shoes

And I just can't get enough of beautiful Stevie Nicks backstage singing a demo of Wild Heart in 1981. Swoon!


A day with the farm bloggers









Blogging is a funny old game. Real life friends don't necessarily understand what it's all about, so when the chance to spend a day with ten bloggers comes round it's an opportunity to grasp with both hands.

The week before last, I headed south to join my new friends - the farm bloggers - at Walnuts Farm in Sussex. Breaking the journey overnight, I stayed with Kat and the two of us headed off in the car at break of dawn on Friday morning.

Picture the scene: rustic, beautiful farmhouse set in the rambling English countryside, brought to life with uproarious laughter and the friendliest bunch of bloggers you could ever hope to meet.

Together, we explored the farm and its livestock, the unbelievably gorgeous interiors, and the lovely gardens. Fuelled by tea and coffee, cakes and scones, salads and Kat's awesome picnic bread, we each pottered about doing our own thing; whether that be photographing our own makes and bakes, helping each other out, focusing on the location, or just snapping each other photographing our wares (I love how pop will eat itself that sounds).

Those farm bloggers:

From left to right - top row: Kat (Housewife Confidential), Yvonne (Yvestown), Bridgee (Little Star Blog), me, Tina (colour living)
Bottom row: Geraldine (Little Big Bell), Emily (The Startup Wife), Igor (Happy Interior Blog), Heather (Growing Spaces), and Catherine (Borrowed Light)

And we missed Will Taylor (Bright.Bazaar) and Louisa (West Egg Interiors) who had to drop out at the last minute. Next time, lovely people!
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