Thursday, 25 July 2013

A classic summer barbecue

Grubby faces and hands. Ice melting fast, and the smell of smoke, singed marshmallows, and sausages: a classic English barbecue.

One sunny Sunday we packed up our picnic rug, a teepee, rugs and cushions, and a disposable barbecue, and headed to the park with friends. There, we lazed, ate and drank, laughed and chatted, and tried to keep the kids away from the flames. Instead, they went off on adventures, bare-chested and brave, finding feathers in the undergrowth, riding their bikes and climbing over logs.

Keep reading for a little taste of what we ate...

As well as the usual hot dogs with ketchup, new potatoes, spring vegetable salads, chicken kebabs, and sweetcorn, we also drank cider, prosecco and shandy, and we had fruit and marshmallows for dessert. But by far the best thing we ate was this recipe.

Alice's warm feta dip

You will need:
A block of feta cheese
Olive oil
Dried Italian herbs
Salt and pepper
A handful of sliced peppers and cherry tomatoes
Foil and a barbecue
Crusty bread

To make:
Begin to wrap the feta in foil so that it's partially encased.
Pile in the peppers and tomatoes, and drizzle oil, herbs, and seasoning on top.
Parcel up the foil, and place this package onto your barbecue.
Cook for around ten minutes, until the cheese has begun to melt.
Dip your bread into the cheese and eat before it has a chance to cool.



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Inspired by... / 03

I am always inspired by amazing women. You know the kind: smart, driven, and intelligent, but lovely people, too. Hels Martin, editor of Lionheart, is one such woman. Now on issue 4, she built Lionheart from scratch, spotting a gap in the market and finding a way to fill it (and fund it), doing it all with passion, warmth and a very loud roar.

This issue's theme is Shapes, and I wrote a piece about memories and childhood, and just how painful nostalgia can be. I love writing for Lionheart as the theme is always interesting and thought-provoking, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to approach it. It forces me to be creative and just a little bit brave.

My piece - The Shape of Memories - is on pages 10-11, so if you'd like to get hold of a copy you can buy online direct from Lionheart HQ, for a list of stockists look here, or if you're in Bristol, head to Something Else, Lionheart's newest stockist.

And if you like this sort of thing, you can read the piece I wrote on the theme of Adventure for issue 3 of Lionheart by visiting my writing site.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A French adventure

Oh, it feels like YEARS ago, but it was just a few weeks back that we spent a glorious week in the south of France. Last year's holiday was a bit hit and miss, but this year was a triumph in that we all had a brilliant time with only one big argument and a bit of a bellow at the kids on the beach (classy). I see that as a success.

A week was not long enough, but we packed a lot into those long days. The usual cycle was beach/pool/ice cream/wine, and repeat. One day, we headed over towards St Tropez to spend the day with friends who just happened to be there at the same time as we were, where we swam, ate, drank, compared local rosés, and the kids had just the best time ever. The Tour de France whizzed past us in a blur of Lycra and gendarmes; we took a boat to the islands just off the Cannes coast and pottered about in the hot, dusty wilderness. But most of all we ate a lot of ice cream, brie and baguette. 

Funny having a holiday early in the season, it feels as though by rights this summer should be nearly over. We returned to a heatwave and have been in and out of the paddling pool ever since.

Happy days.


Again, thanks to Oddsox shoes and The Pippa and Ike Show for their beautiful gifted items.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Inspired by... / 02

My perfume CV probably reads a lot like many other women my age. In my teens I dabbled with those omnipresent Body Shop fragrances - Dewberry, White Musk - before graduating to CKOne and Thierry Mugler's Angel. The three perfumes I wear now are Violetta by Penhaligon's (my twenties career girl perfume), Stella by Stella McCartney (my wedding perfume), and now Tam Dao by Diptyque icon(my thirties working mum perfume).

But since reading Perfumes: The A-Z GuideI feel like a whole new fragranced world has opened up before me, one that begs for a bit of exploration, experimentation, indulgence. The book is a potted history of perfume, an explanation of how fragrance is made and marketed, plus reviews of pretty much every perfume you can think of. Far from being a dry textbook kind of thing, this is one of the most interesting books I've ever read. Truly. Because the authors are funny, knowledgeable, and just really, really love perfume.

Since reading the book, I've been inspired to try new scents. I've even dug about a bit online and discovered a whole world of perfume fanatics, the blogs dedicated to the stuff, and a black market in rare and discontinued fragrances.

What I'm lacking, however, is the opportunity to go and try out some of the perfumes that sound so wonderful on paper. It's a dangerous game to order online based on one person's description. Isn't it?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

July in the garden

The garden is in full bloom. I always know it’s properly summer when the first of the sweet peas come out; this flower is best stuffed into a simple bottle, leaving the flower and its sweet smell (my all-time favourite scent) to do all the talking.

Some of the roses have gone over, dead-headed in the hope of a second flourish next month, but new ones have blossomed in their place: Wedding Day is rampaging through the boughs of the apple tree, while a little, pale pink bush rose has grown taller than I am. The Japanese anenomes are still in their tight, furry buds but it won’t be long before they’re showing their pretty faces.  These days of sun are blissful: paddling pools and ice lollies; lazing in hammocks and deck chairs; the sound of a lawn mower, the smell of cut grass. And I love everything about a line of clean washing in July as it dries in the heat, sways in the breeze, and is still warm to the touch when I change the bed linen.

Each year in winter I forget that the silvery, skinny stick branches of the fig tree will again provide a thick canopy of leaves, sheltering the garden from the height of the heat and dappling the grass with shards of sunlight. The enormous tree bears fruit: waxy globes that change from bud to bulbous fig, but they fall to the ground in late July, unripe. I don’t know why they fail to ripen, and it bothers me as I’d love nothing more than a homegrown fig or two for my breakfast with Greek yoghurt and honey. Our ancient plum tree is also in fruit, which thrills A; it’s a contrary old thing, only deciding to produce plums every other year now, which was a huge disappointment to both A and me last summer.

A couple of weeks ago I bought outdoor festoon lights, which now drape from wall to wall outside the back door. They bring to life this patio passageway, whispering promises of balmy evenings spent drinking something chilled, eating something charred, and laughing, laughing, laughing with friends.

Joining in with two of my most favourite series:
Lou’s nature in the home (this week's theme is simple) and Annie’s how does your garden grow?
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