Friday, 29 April 2011

A Right Royal Tea Party

There are no words to describe how much I have loved today. Kate Middleton; what a woman. What a smile. What a wave! The dress was divine, she was effortlessly elegant, perfectly gracious and completely adorable. The Abbey looked wonderful; so simple and natural. The music was stunning. Everybody looked so happy and the little personal touches, like her brother reading in the church and William driving the two of them down the Mall, in his father's Aston, made a huge event seem impossibly intimate. I loved the way Harry lolloped down the aisle, the grumpy little bridesmaid covering her ears on the balcony, the way William whispered to Kate that she looked beautiful, the moment of stunned realisation when she looked up at the crowds outside Buckingham Palace and the little grins they shared with each other, as if the world were not watching. The whole thing was a joy to watch and I am not even slightly ashamed to say that my face was a picture of grins and tears all the way through. 

The weather wasn't quite good enough to sit outside, so we had a sort of indoor street party, in my living room. Cheese scones, cucumber sandwiches, Victoria sponge, an array of Royal-Wedding-themed cupcakes with a generous helping of Earl Grey tea and (once we hit the afternoon) a couple  of Gin & Tonics. We sang along to Jerusalem and the National Anthem and toasted the television with our gin. It was utterly delicious and the whole thing felt so wonderfully British, which was rather fitting, given the exceptionally British nature of the wedding. 
Cheers, William and Catherine!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Easter Sunday

 Big holidays, like Easter are very much seen as sacred(in the literal, rather than religious sense of the term) family time in our camp. We have lots of lovely traditions, most of which revolve around baking and eating as well as some less fattening ones such as the decoration of our easter tree. 

This year was slightly different, though no less delightful, as most of the weekend was taken up with the preparations for and celebration of the wedding of some very close family friends (more on that later), but we did manage to squeeze in a day of Eastery-loveliness on Sunday.
A scrumptious dinner in the garden.
Lamb roasted for four whole hours, with garlic, lemon, parsley and mint (fresh from the garden) and heaps of delicious homemade salads. 
I wish we could eat outside every day! 
Praline Easter Eggs - in a real egg box - for pudding!
My mum's beautiful flowers were in full-bloom...
...and there were tadpoles in the pond, growing very fat indeed! 
I couldn't resist taking a photo of the perfect summer house, my Dad built, complete with a great-grandma-special: crocheted blanket (I bet she'd love to know how in-vogue it would be now)... 
...and the tiny flowers around my favourite tree. 
We were so sad to have to leave, but made a final stop for a cup of tea in Bath... 
...not forgetting a very important slice of cake. 
Bring on the next Bank Holiday! 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Happy Easter

I started writing this last night, but all of the weekend's events finally caught up with me and, instead of finishing my easter message, I did a very good dormouse impression, on the sofa. I have lots to write about this week, but for now I will just wish you all a very happy (belated) Easter. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Rhubarb, rhubarb!

You can't beat seasonal fruit. Don't get me wrong, I love the odd blueberry on my cereal, in the middle of winter just as much as the next person, but I do sometimes feel like I should wait. There is something so exciting about seeing the first crop of a much awaited fruit; pick-your-own strawberries in the summer,  hedges dripping with blackberries in the autumn. 

Not only that, but they just taste so good. I spent my childhood munching on crisp windfall apples, poking under leaves for warm wild strawberries the size of a pea and sucking the seedy flesh out of hairy gooseberries, revelling in the juicy, fresh sweetness. Just thinking about it brings back so many wonderful memories (and makes my tummy rumble). 

Currently, I don't have a garden big enough to house my own fruit farm, so for the time being I am forced to buy stuff in (pouty lip). Thank goodness for our local greengrocer. They are very hot on local, seasonal produce, just like this stunning rhubarb. Isn't it perfect? It is ravishingly pink and, cut up like that, it looks just like little barley sugar sweets. 

Looking at it makes me feel proud to live in Yorkshire and eating it makes me a very happy Treacle indeed!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Nether Edge

Sheffield is a city like no other. I like to think of it as a series of interconnected towns and villages, all with their own little centres of shops, pubs and cafes, each with a slightly different feel. A bit of getting lost around the disarmingly similar streets that connect them, can often reveal some gems of must-explore goodness and I, for one love it when a wrong turn leads to somewhere amazing. Like this place: Nether Edge, which I stumbled upon thanks to a friend's overly confident, yet adorably misjudged route the other day. 

We started at a gorgeous little deli/cafe called Homemade, owned by some fellow West Country ladies with extremely good taste. It was divine. Beautifully soft, yet stylish decor; all duck egg blue and cream, with a wall papered with old magazine pages, giving the room tips on how to cope with rationing. I was completely overstimulated by the menu and took a good ten minutes to finally decide on an onion bagel, with emmental cheese, the most delicious ham I have ever tasted, a runny poached egg and salad in the scrummiest garlic and lemon dressing. Andy plumped for a 'bacon stack', which consisted of potato cakes, halloumi cheese, mushrooms, wilted spinach, spicy tomato chutney and, of course, bacon. We were both very pleased with ourselves indeed and grinned smugly throughout the entire  meal! We even bought a slice of chocolate and pear tart to take home for pudding. 

We followed breakfast with a lovely potter around the shops that were open, including a brilliant little grocer
Andy often struggles with walls, especially those with bricked-up doorways. 
A classic Sheffield view: a hill that drops away to reveal another part of the city. And trees. Lots of trees.
  We found this secret little forest clearing, full of butterflies and early cow parsley. 
 Finally, we popped to Cocoa to buy some Easter eggs for the family and I got my sunglasses stuck in my hair!
All round, it was a wonderful morning. 
I love Sheffield!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Why not have a picnic in the park?

Why not, you say? Well, we did. At Ruskin Park; a perfect haven of wide open grass and cherry trees, without another person in sight and only the sound of the wind in the trees to lull us gently through our lunch. We had tasty sandwiches, made with the fattest local bacon, still warm when we got there and washed down with a bottle of elderflower cordial. We were even showered at regular intervals with a flurry of delicate, white petals.  All that, two minutes walk down the road. Delightful.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Treats at Breakfast

I had just finished writing my previous post, when Andy arrived home from having his haircut, with a treat breakfast. He has been working really long hours in the hospital this week and I have been at home alone, furiously typing away at my dissertation, so it was the perfect antidote for the quality Treacle and Ginge time that we have been missing. He even brought me back a little cherry blossom. What a lovely chap!
I have never visited Japan, but my sister has and her description and photographs of the vast swathes of blossom are breathtaking. I don't really have a 'before-I-die' list, but if I did, Hanami would definitely be on it. 
Speaking of which, Artemis and Nao from Rust: made in England are currently selling these beautiful Sakura necklaces, to raise money for their family's hometown, Kesennuma in Japan, which was badly affected by the Tsunami. I am putting away my pennies so that I can buy one and so should you! 

Craving Home

Despite having lived away from home for almost five years now, I still get terribly homesick, from time-to-time. I miss the little things like having breakfast at our kitchen table and eating lunch in the garden, surrounded by the beautiful flowers my Mum plants in her higgledy-piggledy, exploding country garden style. I miss going into the kitchen to delve into tins where cakes lie in wait for my greedy hands. I love walking up the lane in my treasured wellies, spotting blushing wild flowers, twittering hedgerow birds and fat cows along the way. I miss cycling along the towpath, waving at barges and stopping for a well earned beer in the sun. I miss the train line; the way you can cross it on foot and the fact that a rogue steam train might appear out of nowhere, heralded to enthusiasts only by its unmistakeable clatter. I miss the perfectly majestic buildings, made homely to me by years of fascinated adoration. I love the tea shops, the book shops, the little secret places where I can slip away from the world. 
 Next weekend is Easter, so I will be going home. I simply cannot wait! First stop, Jika Jika for a cup of my favourite tea: Apple Loves Mint. 

Monday, 11 April 2011

A Flirtation with the Norfolk Summer

It was with a heavy heart and a pouty bottom lip that I agreed to get into the car on friday evening.  Whilst I was very excited about a sunny weekend in Norfolk, I did not at all fancy the two hour journey it would take to get there,  especially not in a stuffy car with windows that looked out onto the beautiful weather we would be missing. 

Mollified by the prospect of what awaited us (and a large cappuccino),we set-off. Actually, the journey was very pleasant. Thanks to ridiculous levels of friday-traffic, we were forced to take a roundabout route along country lanes, flanked by neatly ploughed fields and blossoming hedges. 

We excitedly looked about us for glimpses of sunlit village churches and listened to some absolute gems on the radio; including a fantastic big band concert and an introduction to my new heroine, Florence Foster Jenkins; a lady who loved to sing, even though perhaps she wasn't at all good it. 

Anyway, we made it in the end and were greeted with family hugs and a delicious home-cooked meal. I immediately sank into a state of happy contentment in which I remained, all weekend. 

Saturday was spent at Oxburgh Hall; a perfect, Tudor haven of red brick walls, barleytwist chimney stacks and heavenly gardens. I was particularly excited by the kitchen garden and newly planted orchard. How I long for one of my own!

We had a very civilised picnic lunch. Home-cooked ham sandwiches with ripe tomatoes and early British asparagus, all washed down with a cool glass of local apple juice and a slightly warmer one of ale. We even ate at a table. With chairs. I didn't know what to do with myself. It was a world away from the picnics of my heathen childhood, when we would merrily munch away, cross-legged on the ground. 
There was a lovely woodland walk, where I spied lots of pretty flowers and awesome insects.  
There was even a little ruined church, just outside of the grounds. It was magical and all the more beautiful in its downfall. I could have daydreamed there for hours.  
After we got home, Andy and I went for a little wander up the road, to another ruined church. I very excitedly recognised it as the church at which the author of one of my favourite blogs, Wellies and Vogue, had her incredible wedding. 

 There is something so wonderful about an old church. I love imagining the lives that have been lived there. The love, the loss, the hope, the longing and the joy of the timeless community that has worshipped there, at one time or another. 
We did lots of other lovely things, like sitting out in the garden, reading in the sun and eating delicious King's Lynn shrimp by the riverside. We even finished the weekend with a trip to see the Queen, at Sandringham, although sadly we couldn't stay for tea.

Before I met Andy, I had never been to Norfolk. Now, I am completely in love with the place and I simply cannot wait to go back.