Saturday, 26 April 2014

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.
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Monday, 21 April 2014

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.
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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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


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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

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!


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Monday, 14 April 2014

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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Saturday, 12 April 2014

15/52



A: Fascinated
T: Distracted; requires feeding, even now

I've been trying to catch up with the 52 project but I'm going to admit defeat and accept it's not going to happen.

Instead, onwards and upwards. There are so many things brewing at the moment, so very many bits and bobs on the horizon. Forwards is the only way.
Joining in with Jodi's 52 project

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Bristol 06 / Gravitas Feast


A while back, I wrote about The Raven and The Writing Desk, and Jack Rabbit's Derby, both amazing events created by the Food and Theatre Company.

Well, they're at it again. The Gravitas Feast invites art and theatre-lovers to dine amid powerful paintings by Abigail Reed and life-sized fabric sculptures by Dorcas Casey. For three nights only, innovative performance, fine dining, fine art and foodie fun meet in the nomadic, harbourside Antlers Gallery (while we're here, go see the Antlers kickstarter campaign that launched today).

The Gravitas Feast will laud the nature of the beasts represented in the gallery behind them, exploring the continual and complex relationship between humans and animals. Anna and Orla, founders of the Food and Theatre Company, are known for their droll style and interactive shows so this one is bound to be fab.

The three-course menu, developed by chef John Watson (ex Michelin-starred Casa Mia restaurant), looks adventurous: diners are invited to dress for dinner, as they explore a dream world colliding with the here and now while enjoying experimental dishes such as Crispy Pigs Ears with Apple Roast Ox Heart.

The Gravitas Feast takes place over three evenings this weekend: 11, 12 and 13 April 2014, 7-10pm, at Antlers Gallery, Purifier House, Lime Kiln Road, Bristol BS1 5AD.
Full price tickets cost £40 (groups of 6 or more cost £35), available from the Food and Theatre Company.

Bristol, you are so very good at this stuff.

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Sunday, 6 April 2014

13/52



A: Made me this sweet book for Mother's Day
T: Dinner defiance, once again

My feet have not touched the ground this week, hence I'm over a week late with these portraits (and a whole bottleneck of blog posts, too). That's the way it goes sometimes, I guess. Frustrating but real life needs to do its thing.

Will take my head out of the clouds and pull up my socks this week, promise.
Joining in with Jodi's 52 project
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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Five reads for April

Decorate with Flowers by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring


1. Decorate with Flowers: Creative ideas for flowers and containers around the home

Spring has well and truly sprung, and everywhere I look I see blossoms and blooms. Decorate with Flowers couldn't have come at a better time; it's packed with ideas for making flowers look their best, whether hand picked from the garden or a shop-bought bunch. Properly lovely stuff.

2. Essays In Love

More than a little obsessed with the intellect of Alain de Botton, this is his one and only novel and I'm desperate to read it. It's on my shortlist for my next book group pick, but I fear I may end up reading it before then.

3. Kinfolk Volume 11

It's Kinfolk time again; volume 11 is the Home issue so it's bound to be a goodie.

4. Brilliant Biscuits: Fun-to-decorate biscuits for all occasions

How cute are these beautifully decorated biscuits? I'm particularly enamoured with the forest foxes, toadstools and little squirrels. Brilliant, indeed.

5. The Simple Things - April issue

My second piece for The Simple Things is out now, in issue 22 (the April issue), featuring three easy Easter makes.

What are you planning to read this month?

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