Monday, 30 April 2012

Snapshot: A grown-up weekend

Photographs by the supremely talented Alice Hendy

This weekend was a breath of fresh air. Friday night I ate tapas in a tipi at Eat Drink Bristol Fashion, and drank the most incredible cocktails at doorbell bar extraordinaire, The Milk Thistle, with some of my best friends. I met these wonderful women when we were pregnant or had very tiny babies, and we've been hanging out, drinking strong coffee, and painting the town red for nearly five years now. They are the bomb.

The following night, the kids went for a sleepover at my mum's, which meant a table for two at Bordeaux Quay for me and my beau.

Batteries recharged, souls salved, eyebags ever so slightly reduced - even just the tiniest time out makes all the difference.


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Apple and Rhubarb Crumble

Crumble by oysterpots

It's been so cold and wet these past weeks it feels less like spring and more like autumn. So much so, we've been lighting the fire, cooking roast chicken, and tonight we baked this delicious crumble for pudding. 

Crumbles are my very favourite dessert, but I'm quite a fusspot when it comes to the sweet/sharp ratio - I like my pud with a bit of bite. This version hits the spot - the rhubarb is naturally tart, as are the apples, but the two types of sugar temper this just enough. I love warming, wintry spices so I am liberal with my application of cinnamon and mixed spice. If you aren't so keen, just reduce the quantities or leave them out altogether. If you opt for the latter, you might want something else to add a third dimension - I'd add the grated zest of 1/4 lemon or clementine, or perhaps a teaspoon or two of orange flower water mixed in with the fruit in stage 4.

The recipe is a variation on one my grandma used to make. It's seen many iterations, and has been referred to within our family for years. One you can trust, believe me.

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble
Serves 4-6 

250g rhubarb
500g Bramley apples
125g golden caster sugar
1tsp cinnamon
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
75g butter
50g caster sugar
15g demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6. 
2. Wash and trim the rhubarb, before chopping into pieces around 1cm thick. Discard any tough ends or stringy bits.
3. Peel, core and slice the apples into pieces about 0.5cm thick.
4. In a large bowl, mix together the 125g caster sugar and cinnamon, before adding the rhubarb and apple. Give it all a good tumble around to make sure the fruit is evenly covered in the spiced sugar.
5. Pour the sugared fruit into a 3 pint ovenproof dish.
6. Sieve the flour and mixed spice into the large bowl from before. 
7. Add the butter, cutting through the mixture with two kitchen knives and/or rubbing the fat into the flour with the very ends of your fingertips. Bash the side of the bowl every so often to bring any large lumps of butter to the surface. When the mixture resembles damp sand, you can stop rubbing and stir in the remaining 50g of sugar.
7. Pour the crumble mixture over the fruit and pat down loosely. Top with the demerara sugar.
8. Cook in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes.

Serve hot with plenty of custard or vanilla ice cream (in this house, we can never decide - quite often it's both).


Friday, 27 April 2012

Wish you were here?

Listening to the rain beat down on the roof, watching the sky darken as the school run looms.

Transporting myself somewhere hot and lazy with Toast's Summer catalogue. Wish I was there.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Grow your own sun

This endless rain has left us with no alternative. We're growing our own sun.

Arthur brought home a sunflower kit from school - it's a PTA fundraiser, the idea being we all grow our plants over the next couple of months before taking them into school in July to find out who has grown the biggest sunflower.

He carefully positioned the seeds in the earth, pushing them down before watering his plants and admiring his handiwork. We then named the plants, thinking of our favourite yellow things. Contenders were 'banana' and 'mellow yellow', before Arthur settled on Lemon and Dragon.

Will they grow true to form, taking on the traits suggested by their names? And will we win the coveted Biggest Sunflower prize in the summer? Place your bets now... My money's on Dragon.

I received a lovely compliment about my pictures the other day. In case you wondered, I take most of my photos on my iPhone, and use Instagram (my favourite waste of time) to edit them - find me there, I'm Oysterpots.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Snapshot: A whirlwind weekend

This weekend was all a bit of a blur...

:: A and T went to a birthday party which featured the most incredible Gruffalo cake imaginable
:: Kitchen disco! We boogied and bogled to Burning Spear, Franz Ferdinand and Dinosaur Jr
:: Arthur's new issue of Okido magazine arrived - it's fab, and makes me wish I was 4 again
:: Sali Hughes' smoky eye make up tutorial really is idiot-proof, and I managed a passable attempt for an art party. Even the food was a work of art - I've never seen a snip-your-own salad window box before
:: The boys perfected the art of the pile-on, with poor Ben at the bottom 
:: We lunched on fish and chips, which weren't a patch on the takeaways we ate in Dartmouth

:: A friend of ours works for Lush, and asked A to take part in a training film she was making. He was paid in bath bombs - we now have a very happy, sweet-smelling child
:: And I smell pretty good too after a soak in a deep bath with the last of the REN Moroccan Rose Otto Bath Oil. That stuff is AMAZING.


Friday, 20 April 2012

I like big books and I cannot lie

It's true. All kinds of books, but especially great big coffee table books, cookery books, design books, and many types of fiction. Books hold the answer to every problem: no matter what the issue, the solution is just a quick Amazon click away, and that all-too-easy 'add to basket' button has created a major storage situation in our house.

Is print really dead? Or dying? I hope not. Although I admit to being a very good customer of Amazon, it makes me sad to think bookshops may well go the way of record shops. This film is about a Manhattan bookseller who has relocated his store to his apartment, kind of like a pop-up shop or secret restaurant. I'd love to pay him a visit - bet it's amazing in there.

Doesn't it look wonderful? If a little smoky.

And Penguin have produced this beautiful animation which looks at the nuances of language, something I think about often when reading translated fiction such as Haruki Murakami.


I suspect I will be lugging my heavy books around for some time yet, while iPad/Kindle users carry their entire library in a lightweight handbag.

Perhaps I should invest in this bag by Pamela Rudgate Designs - available from her Etsy shop.

Oh, and I have been asked to write a guest review for What Sarah Reads, so I will share the link for that one when the time is right.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

On the hunt: Kettles

We are notoriously picky when it comes to kitchen appliances. It once took us several months to - finally - choose a microwave, an appliance that now lives behind a cupboard door. The normal drill is that we research, send 'what about this one?' emails back and forth to each other, read endless reviews on the internet before finally making a decision, by which time the item in question is often sold out, or possibly even discontinued.

Choosing our current kettle was a similarly protracted process and we pushed the boat out, buying a Magimix brushed chrome kettle. In stark contrast to the intensive purchasing procedure, once bought we are terribly slack when it comes to maintenance. As a result, the Magimix has met a scaley demise. RIP old friend.

So it's back to square one and we're on the hunt for a new kettle. Here are my favourites:

1. Bistro kettle in red, Bodum £38.95 (John Lewis
2. Stove-top kettle, PicquotWare £139.95 (Picquot)
3. Sottsass kettle in pale yellow, Bodum £discontinued! Tsk.
4. Vintage Copco stove-top kettle, £various (similar available on Etsy
5. Ibis kettle in hot pink, Bodum £19.95 (John Lewis)
6. Hot It kettle, Alessi £85 (John Lewis)

The stove top kettles are beautiful and I've always loved Picquot but £139 is far too steep. I'm impressed with the Alessi Hot It, mainly as it's such a restrained design. But again, pricey. So it'll probably be a Bodum - cheerful and bright, the only question now is which colour to choose.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Trains, boats and racing cars - a fast-paced weekend

This weekend we:
:: Made a mega Brio track
:: Saw a dear friend and her adorable baby for the first time in months
:: Took part in a treasure hunt designed by a four-year-old
:: Made washi tape tracks for Kinder Surprise cars while waiting for our supper
:: Met neighbours for early evening drinks in our local
:: Agreed to disagree over A Visit From The Goon Squad at book group
:: Made granola
:: Whizzed into Mshed to see The Pirates! ship
:: Caught up with my dear old dad over lunch
:: Rounded off the weekend/Easter hols with an exhausting hour at the funfair on the Downs, where the boys went on their first ever rollercoaster and absolutely loved it.

I'm absolutely pooped, and feel I've earned my Thali tiffin.

New Washi stash

New Washi stash by oysterpots
I have exciting plans for this little lot.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Recipe: Tarka Dal

I am crazy for curry. Can't get enough of the hot stuff. I will never turn down an offer of an Indian takeaway, but as a healthier and cheaper option I'm always trying to perfect my home-made versions of curry house classics.

Tarka Dal is one of the dishes we always order, without fail, and it's such a simple but tasty dish. I like a hefty hit of garlic, so have included it both in the dal and the tarka. Lentils need plenty of seasoning, so along with the garlic you do need to add quite a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Try it - perfect for a quick and cheap, mid-week supper.

Serves 4
For the dal:
250g red lentils
900ml water
1 onion, cut into half moons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 fresh chilli, whole
Salt and pepper

For the tarka:
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp asofoetida
1/4 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small tomato, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

1. Put the lentils, water, onion, garlic, bay leaves, turmeric and chilli into a large pan.
2. Set over a low heat, bring to the boil then leave, uncovered, to simmer for 20 minutes. While the lentils are simmering, mix together the dry ingredients for the tarka in a small bowl or cup, and start cooking your rice.
3. When the lentils are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and fish out the chilli and bay leaves. Use the back of your wooden spoon to break up the garlic cloves a little. Season with salt and pepper
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan. When hot, add the garlic slices and allow these to sizzle, but make sure you don't let it burn as this will make the garlic taste bitter.
5. Throw in the dry spices, until they begin to crackle and pop.
6. When the spices are beginning to brown, add the chopped tomato - stand back, as the water in the juice will make the oil spit.
7. Give it all a good stir before scraping the tarka into the dal, and sealing it all in with the pan lid for a few minutes.
8. Another stir, check your seasoning, then you're ready to serve.

We ate this tonight simply with Basmati rice, salad and mango chutney, but you could have it as a side dish or add breads to make a more substantial meal.

More vegan recipes

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Museums and milkshakes

  by oysterpots

These Easter holidays have been action-packed so far, and no exception today. We met some friends at the RWA for a Puffin make-and-take activity alongside the mind-blowing Penguin Parade exhibition, which tells the story of Penguin publishing. A and his friend made Penguin bookmarks and paper penguins, before improvising with the materials to make name bracelets.

Dahl - always a winner by oysterpots

There's an excellent, bright yellow Puffin area in the show, where kids can design their own book cover, and a Roald Dahl DVD - always a winner.

Yum by oysterpots

A quick pit-stop was needed, so we headed for Rocotillo's for milkshakes. The boys split a strawberry shake, while the girls went for mint choc chip.

Tiger by oysterpots

Then it was off to Bristol Museum for a tear around their Curiosity kids' area. The dressing up box is brilliant, and we love the stage with its different backdrops to choose from.


Monday, 9 April 2012


Easter breakfast: bunny pancakes by oysterpots

We began Easter Sunday with bunny pancakes, which are surprisingly easy to make. Perhaps it was T sleeping in until 8.30am but we all seemed full of energy even before any chocolate was consumed. We headed out into the garden for a quick hunt when the rain eased off, and the boys were very excited to find their eggs.

Ben's parents came over for lunch, bringing with them a brilliant Easter egg hunt, so it was back into the garden to harvest more chocolate. Sporting bunny and chick masks, A and T filled up their baskets.

By the end of the day the boys were uncontrollably excitable. Sugar is a drug it seems, and by nightfall the kids were on a Cadbury's comedown. A wouldn't part with his egg, and chilled out on the sofa clutching it to his cheek.

Not letting go by oysterpots

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Devon again

And we're back from another brilliant week in Devon. Just two months on from our first foray into chalet life, and we couldn't stay away. So much fun was had with our dear friends Abi and Byron, and their lovely kids Reuben, Betty and Edgar.

Here's a rundown of what the week entailed. We:

:: Got up close and saw elephants, giraffes and rhino in real life at Paignton Zoo

:: Couldn't get enough of the view from our chalet
:: Ate as though it was our last week on earth - fish and chips, ice cream, crisps and cake, but surprisingly no cream teas 
:: Drank a lot of wine, beer, pear cider, and for the boys their first taste of Fanta
:: Pottered about at Brixham harbour
:: Played the 2p slots on Paignton pier
:: Rode award-winning donkeys

:: Travelled by steam from Totnes to Buckfastleigh and back again on the South Devon Railway
:: Played on the beach
:: Drank amazing coffee from the Lime Coffee Company on Slapton Sands
:: Spent hours on the death slide, water slides, toboggans, soft play and fairground rides at Woodlands Leisure Park
:: Watched Madagascar, and danced like idiots to 'I Like to Move It' by Real to Reel
:: Perused the shops of Totnes, and regretted not buying a couple of antique etched dessert wine glasses
:: Bumped into an old family friend

:: Hunted mini Lindt bunnies
:: Made Easter bonnets fit for pearly kings and queens
:: Played musical statues, covering many genres including rock, folk and disco
:: Rang the changes by throwing in a few rounds of musical bumps
:: And had the best time with some of the funniest, funnest people we know

Already plotting our next holiday. We can't wait.

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