Posts tagged ‘travel’

January 25, 2014

The Weekend Pages #2

Welcome to week two of The Weekend Pages, in which I share my online searches.

Recently, I’ve been gazing at perfect table settings and thinking about creating my own. Making time for friends is an important goal for me this year. I’d like to have small but regular gatherings of our closest family and friends in our home. So I need to think about how to make this happen. I’ve been using my renewed interest in Pinterest  to map out my plans for this year and beyond…

In January last year, we were busy making marmalade at home. This year, I’m planning to leave the marmalade making to other folk, but make some marmalade puddings! This Nigella recipe looks fabulous. Or perhaps, this one from The Three Chimneys. Failing that, there are lots of marmalade puddings here!

Regardless of anything else in our home,  one of the things you’ll always find is great coffee and we’re big fans of the AeroPress; here’s why…

The AeroPress, with Huw from Kinfolk (kinfolk.com) on Vimeo.

Further afield, I’ve been thinking about travel, inspired by the beautiful maps at Herb Lester. I bought this Paris one, not because I have any particular plans for a solo trip to Paris, but just because maps are awesome and I love to dream of travel…

Herb Lester Paris map

Map: Herb Lester

 

Have you found anything great online this week?

January 15, 2014

Three Good Things: get well soon edition.

I’ve been ill all week with a chest infection and feeling pretty sorry for myself. Thankfully, I have been taken care of very well by my lovely boyfriend and now I’m back on my feet and, a week late,  ready to crack on with 2014!

So, this week’s Three Good Things is the Get Well Soon edition…

One: Flapjack from Millies

When I’m feeling poorly, I tend to indulge myself in whatever food I fancy. My opinion is that it’s a good way of making myself feel better, or at least forget that I’m ill for a while anyway.  I discovered these flapjacks a couple of weeks ago, and OH MY GOODNESS, they are amazing. And, they have lots of healthy seeds and goji berries in them, which totally offsets all the sugar, right? (In my head, yes.) If you ever find yourself in Leeds, then I completely recommend you get along to Millies Local and Organic Store and buy yourself one. Or a bundle. You’ll find them near the cash tills, assuming I’ve left any…

Flapjack from Millie's Organic

Two: Planning travel

Lying in bed feeling sorry for myself has been rubbish. I get to the point where I’m just cross and bored with my own illness. Taking myself out of the situation by planning future travel is an excellent way to cheer myself up. As a result of this, and thanks to my back issues of Lonely Planet magazine, current plans for the year include Paris, Amsterdam, a bit of Scandinavia and Oxford. I plan to travel alone, with friends, with my beloved children and with my equally beloved boyfriend. I’m very excited about these plans. Now I just need to pay for them!

Lonely Planet magazine

Three: Long baths.

Long, warm baths are just the thing for helping to soothe away the soreness that comes from being ill. A favourite bath oil, a fragrant candle, and a good book complete the picture. Heaven.

Bathroom

What have your Three Good Things been this week? I’d love to hear from you.

Let me know if you write a Three Good Things post, and I’ll link back to it in next week’s edition.

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

October 14, 2013

The Bear and Ragged Staff, Oxfordshire.

On Sunday night, I had the great fortune to stay at The Bear and Ragged Staff, in Oxfordshire.

Last weekend was another ‘Micra Adventure‘. We’d had a great weekend and on Sunday night, at about 6pm, we found ourselves with nowhere to stay. We’d planned to camp, but the weather forecast for the start of our time away was awful, so we’d abandoned that idea and stayed with relatives on the journey out. But the journey home was by a completely different route and so we decided to book somewhere to stay at the very last minute  (using Booking.com) and take the risk that we’d find somewhere nice that we could afford.

And, oh, how that risk paid off. We managed to find an amazing late deal on the one remaining room at The Bear and Ragged Staff, a country inn in Cumnor, Oxfordshire. Our room was the family room, in the Landlord’s Wing, which apparently dates back hundreds of years. Judging by the ancient beams in our room, I can well believe that! The room was actually a suite, designed to accommodate two adults and three children so we had a huge amount of space, as well as no less than three flat screen TVs at our disposal. On entering the first room, ducking to avoid the low door frames, we came to a sitting room, with a sofa bed and little nook off to one side that would have been a perfect child’s bed, had we needed it. Tea and coffee making things were in this room too, with some lovely flapjacks and a tub of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit for snacking on.

Bear and Ragged Staff

Then, after this room, there was a little lobby area, with the bathroom in front of us, and our bedroom to the right. The bathroom, with underfloor heating, a deep double-ended bath and giant rainfall shower, felt incredibly luxurious (especially for us, who’d originally planned on camping!) and had pleasant, full sized toiletries, bright white and fluffy towels and a dressing gown. Our bedroom had a king sized bed (one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept on) with crisp white bed linen and giant pillows. We were also blessed with a large flat screen tv, but we never felt the need to turn it on!  Looking up into the old rafters was a total treat and peering out of the mullioned windows into the misty morning after our night’s stay, I felt very, very fortunate indeed.

Bear and Ragged Staff

As the hotel is in a rural area, and we’d arrived quite late, we decided to eat on the premises and thoroughly enjoyed everything we had. We’d been told that a couple of items had sold out due to a really busy lunch period, but that didn’t really affect our choices, and I thought it was a good sign that the place was so popular!  I opted for an old favourite, crab and leek risotto, and Stephen had a steak burger which was cooked to medium-rare pink perfection. Having gone for a slightly lighter meal, I felt like I could just about make space for dessert – honey and lavender cheesecake with honeycomb – and I’m so glad I did! The flavour combination was heavenly. I enjoyed a glass of prosecco to celebrate our good fortune and I also rather liked Noble, a lager from Greene King, that was being served on tap. I’ll definitely look for that again. Breakfast was included in the price of our room, and again, it was lovely, with plenty of local produce. I had a full cooked breakfast – I couldn’t not! – and Stephen had Eggs Benedict. It was the perfect way to start the day, setting us up well for the journey home.

We had such a wonderful stay at the Bear and Ragged Staff. Our entire time there was pretty much faultless, and as well as great facilities, the customer service was friendly and helpful throughout, which I always finds makes such a difference, no matter where I’m staying.  I’d love to make a return visit one day…

September 13, 2013

Wood Street Market, Wakefield

This Sunday is the third Wood Street Market of the year. I went to the last one and it was lots of fun.

Wood Street is in the centre of Wakefield and the market has helped to revitalise this often-quiet Civic Quarter.  The road is closed and transformed into a hive of activity with stallholders, entertainment and live music. When we visited in the summer, there was a city ‘beach’ organised by the Council too, so the kids were thrilled to see a helter-skelter to ride on – which thankfully was free, because they went on it many, many times…

Plenty of different and freshly prepared street food was available, including pulled pork, Thai satay, coffee, cupcakes, and the local independent beer shop had a couple of beers on tap for those folk who hadn’t driven into town! I bought some lovely fresh scones to take home for a treat and the kids enjoyed ice creams, despite the occasional shower of rain!

We made paper windmills, had some great photographs taken at The Portrait Sideshow (which we loved so much that we’ve bought prints)  viewed a photography exhibition and listened to a variety of live music. One of the musicians asked for audience suggestions and my lovely three year old nephew made him play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, which made us chuckle.  It was allegedly written by Mozart, after all!

Wood Street Market

As well as food and music was a nice variety of stalls, including my favourite which was called ‘Jam’  (nice paper goods, craft-based gifts and books) run by the people who own the shop of the same name. Pop-up shops and free family craft activities made good use of empty shops along Wood Street, and will be back on Sunday.

Wood Street Market is a community-led event, created by some enterprising local businesses who wanted to see a change in their city and took it upon themselves to make it happen.  They (and the local council, and their other partners) deserve our support, so if you’re in the area and stuck for something fun to do, then I recommend you go along.

September 2, 2013

Take your holiday back home…

This post was originally titled ‘how to steal things from your holiday’ but I thought you might worry I had criminal tendencies…

Do you ever come back from holiday determined to bring something home with you? I don’t mean literally stealing the towels from your hotel room, although I do admit to taking those little bottles of toiletries if they’re nice enough. We all do that though, right?

What I mean by ‘stealing’ is taking ideas, behaviours, attitudes, styles, away from our ‘holiday’ selves and recreating them in our ‘real’ selves and real, everyday lives. I’ve often tried to do exactly that. Sadly, though the idea of breakfast on the terrace every day is perfection in sunny Europe, it doesn’t translate terribly well to a wintery Yorkshire.  However, this year, I have a very good chance of recreating some elements of my holidays in my everyday life, from my city break in Paris, camping trips to Scotland and The Lake District and, last week, in a yurt in the Yorkshire Dales.

So – first up are some lovely Duralex glasses that you see everywhere in Paris. Although they’re incredibly chic, they’re also cheap, and so I can buy these and pretend that I’m drinking in some little Left Bank bistro. Perhaps I’ll insist on a return trip to Paris to buy them from Merci though?

Secondly, I can recreate the  lanterns that are used everywhere at Bivouac, adding wire to old jars and glasses, with some lace or jute string to decorate and a tea light dropped inside. I found this tutorial video, which makes them look easy! Cheap enough to amass a huge collection, these will be a glittering backdrop to the Bonfire Night supper that I’m planning. And bunting! I need more bunting in my life. I think I shall make some. It’s not hard, is it?

Tea lights, bunting and mismatched furniture...

Tea lights, bunting and mismatched furniture…

I can also recreate the style of Bivouac in other ways, using mis-matched furniture (which, with my budget, is going to happen anyway!) to give my home a lived-in, unique feel. Removing the distractions of TV, and allowing the evenings to be focussed on people, conversations around dinner and a bottle of beer sounds good too. That lack of wifi, 3G or even a phone signal at Bivouac was good for making me slow down a bit and read more. I’d like to bring reading back into my normal life too, I’ve not found the time for that recently.

Often, when I’m on holiday, I find myself eating differently. This is more noticeable, I think, when abroad, as I adopt a Mediterranean style diet, or eat more unusual food. I often choose to potter around a local market to shop for food. This is something that I’d like to bring back home to my everyday life. More fresh food, more cooking, more greens! Fewer scones, sadly, which seemed to be a staple of my last holiday…

I also tend to exercise more – swimming in a pool or the sea perhaps. Walking, cycling, even wandering around a city can be physically demanding. I’ve started swimming every week, although it’s not terribly glamorous at my local pool, it is doing me good. I’ve added hill walking to my weekends whenever I can fit it in, so it’s not just something I do when I’m away camping.

I’m sure there are other things I can add to that list, given enough time! But for now, those are the things I’m stealing from my holidays. I’m hoping that they will add a bit of healthiness and happiness, as well as making me feel a tiny bit more like I’m on holiday everyday…

What would you steal from your holiday? 

August 16, 2013

Tim Walker: Dreamscapes

I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, specifically to see a temporary exhibition ‘Tim Walker: Dreamscapes’, a collection of images by the legendary photographer.

The museum has a fascinating history as it’s never been a home – it was purpose built by John and Josephine Bowes in the 19th Century as a museum with the aim of introducing the arts to the people of the North East. The building is based on a French chateau and is an utterly magnificent creation, which sadly neither Josephine or John lived long enough to see finished.

My initial impression, on arriving at the room hosting the exhibition was one of understatement, as the room was darkened, with the images shown in front of light boxes. From the outside, it’s not terribly impressive. However, once we went inside and really looked at the photographs, that impression was completely reversed and I was transfixed by the photographs on display.

Walker is best known for his flamboyant fashion and lifestyle photography, which has long graced the pages of the most famous glossy magazines. The collection of photographs on display included works featuring well known models, such as Lily Cole, Stella Tennant and Kristen McMenamy. However, even they, in their beauty, are somehow secondary to the incredible sets, props and landscapes used in each image.  The surrealist and eccentric feel to the photos reminded me of Alice in Wonderland on more than one occasion and the colours and detail in each one is just stunning.

Self-portrait with eighty cakes

Self-Portrait with Eighty Cakes (leaflet from the exhibition)

What’s remarkable about the photographs is that Tim Walker doesn’t use digital media to manipulate what you see. So, if the photograph features a bed in a tree, then there really was a bed in a tree. Likewise, a bathroom transported to a woodland stream, balloons billowing from the windows of a country house, eighty cakes in a bedroom or (in a collaboration with Tim Burton) a giant, crying skeleton. Many of the images were taken at close-by Eglingham Hall, in Nortumberland, so it seems quite fitting that they’re on display here.

We didn’t get much chance to look around the rest of the Bowes Museum, as we decided that tea and cake in the Bowes cafe on site was more urgent (sorry!), but it feels safe to say that admirers of silver, porcelain and textiles would find much to please them in the permanent and internationally-renowned collection.

Tim Walker: Dreamscapes is exhibiting until 1st September.

August 14, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Five

Hello and welcome to week five of Three Good Things!

One: My tomatoes.

My first good thing this week is the first home-grown cherry tomato of the year. Earlier this year, I sowed a whole packet of seeds that promised to be a new variety of tomato that was small enough to sit on a windowsill. The grand plan was for me to grow them all and then share with the folk who come to the Sage and Thrift cookbook swap.

Things didn’t quite go according to plan when most of the seeds turned out to be some mysterious brassica (they all look the same at seedling stage!) and only three tomato plants. So I didn’t have enough to give any away. However, the two plants I still have left are doing really well. They’re petite, study and have a healthy crop of fruit that has just started to ripen. I ate the first tomato very ceremoniously yesterday and it was lovely. So, I’ll have a go at growing these again next year and hope that I get the tomatoes I’m promised! The mystery brassicas, by the way, have been planted on the allotment and are romping away. They may well be brussels sprouts…

Spot the first ripening tomato!

Spot the first ripening tomato!

Two: Scones in the Lake District.

I had a camping microadventure last week, and I’m going to blog about it separately, but there are a few things that really stood out for me. And one of them was this moment. At the risk of sounding like an Enid Blyton character, food always tastes especially nice when eaten outdoors. And when I feel as though I’ve really earned a treat by doing some exercise, it’s absolute heaven. So these freshly-made and still warm scones, eaten after climbing Castle Crag in The Lake District, were truly a high point of this week!

Giant cream tea...

Giant cream tea…

Three: Borrowing a tent.

The last thing that has made my week is a tent. Or, rather more specifically, the loan of a tent. Without which I couldn’t have had the microadventure that has given me lots of happy memories, made a huge improvement to the way I am feeling and set in motion a plan for the rest of the year. As I said above, I’ll tell you more about the trip later this week, but for now, huge thanks go to my marvellous, tent-lending friend Lyndon, without whom I wouldn’t have woken up  here…

Beats waking up at home...

Beats waking up at home…

Now, do go and see what Three Good Things  A Hell of a Woman, Mummy Plum, Asbestosbitch and Nyssapod have chosen this week and let me know what yours are!

Three Good Things is taking a break here next week, as I’ll be spending the week in a Mongolian Yurt at Bivouac. Hopefully, I’ll have lots of adventures to share with you on my return though…

July 10, 2013

How to have a ‘Micra’ Adventure

Last week, I was surprised with a night away staying in a tipi. Or, more correctly, a Tentipi, which is a Norwegian designed tipi that has completely revolutionised my understanding of camping, due to the bloody incredible wood burning stove inside. Which means that, despite the wind and rain we faced on Sunday, we were toasty warm and making mugs of tea inside. I loved it. Loved it.

Not that I don’t like camping, I do. I just don’t like getting cold. But I do love camping –  I just need layers and layers of clothing! I love the sense of adventure and of having a bit of freedom. Of having life’s issues reduced to working out how to keep a roof up over our heads, cook dinner and spend time with our loved ones. The important stuff.

IMG_6731

One of the things that I really loved about the time in the tipi – even more than the stove – was re-aquainting myself with the truth that adventures don’t have to be far-flung, lengthy, or cost a fortune. Adventure is on our doorsteps; we just have to look for it. It’s all a question of attitude. So, with that attitude in mind, I’m getting a ‘Micra Adventure’ kit together so we can jump in the car and set off for places unknown. The utterly inspiring Alistair Humphreys calls them Microadventures, but given that Silvertrim (ancient Micra) is likely to be our vehicle, unless we walk or cycle, I’ve changed the name to suit. Micra Adventures are hidden in all the places in the UK that I don’t know, from secret woods to city centres, coastal paths to open moorland.

Even though my wish-list of places to visit across the globe will never diminish, there are so many places I’ve not been to in the UK and it seems a shame not to take the opportunity to see them, as most of them are so much more accessible over a short period of time than anywhere abroad. We have some of the most wonderful habitats, natural places, heritage, cities and landscape of anywhere in the world and it’s short sighted not to appreciate them because they’re more ‘known’ to us than places further away. It also means that we can escape the 9-5 much more readily than if we had to make complicated plans and save up lots of money.

So, tipi shopping is the next point of order, and getting the Micra Adventure kit ready so that we can leave at the drop of a hat, off to make our next discovery.

Is there a place to camp in the UK that you recommend? Let me know!

March 15, 2013

Doctor Faustus at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Last week, my friend and occasional ‘cultural conversation’ partner Jo and I were lucky enough to be invited to a performance of Doctor Faustus at the West Yorkshire Playhouse through our friends at The Culture Vulture and we’ve been meaning to write our review ever since. Unfortunately, events conspired against us so far, but, finally, here it is. And just in time for you to catch it before it closes this weekend! We talked in the interval, and since, about the impact the play had on us, and the questions it raises about decisions, faith, morality, and – perhaps most importantly – how amazing Mephistopheles’ final costume was. I’ve reproduced some of our conversation below, with huge thanks to Jo for her fabulous contributions and apologies in advance if I accidentally shift from ‘we’ to ‘I’ continually throughout this piece …

If you’re the sort of person who likes your Marlowe and Shakespeare served traditionally, Colin Teevan’s Doctor Faustus probably won’t be your cup of tea. Personally, I’m happy for myths and legends to be re-imagined in a modern context—it replaces the natural evolution of stories that happens in oral traditions—and as the Faustus tale explores such a juicy question—what it means to lose one’s soul—it’s ripe for adaptation across centuries and continents. Luckily for both of us, we really enjoyed this version, and admire the boldness of both Colin Teevan for adapting such a well-known and loved piece of work and the Playhouse and Citizens Theatre, Glasgow for producing it.

From the Playhouse trailer,  we were expecting something much darker than the lurid show we saw.

The sense of menace came in the form of Mephistopheles (Siobhan Redmond) who, we both agreed, stole the show. Jo said that she wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see her floating rather than walking across the stage; she oozed otherworldliness. Mephistopheles’ excellent performance was closely followed by Alasdair Hankinson’s back playing Marilyn Monroe. We’ve never seen someone act with their shoulder blades before and Hankinson has set the bar high!

Flanking the main stage space with a secondary set—rows of vanity mirrors, suggesting a theatre dressing room—was a clever touch, creating a blur between audience and actor and allowing us to be in on the jokes played on Faustus—we see a male devil gleefully don a wig, veil and wedding dress when Faustus asks Mephistopheles for a bride. This distinction was played with again, right at the end, when the edges of the theatre backdrop lifted to expose a part of the Playhouse backstage area, repositioning the audience emotionally from being outsiders looking in to complicit in the scene; a small act with a massive effect.

There were a few really nice details in the piece, from a brief moment at the opening of the play when the ‘off-stage’ characters all sit up in their chairs and lean, as one, towards the action, to an Elvis rendition of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ in a Las Vegas scene.

Jo did have rather a WTF moment about a rabbit. In a scene of debauchery, one of the participants appears in a bunny head. Apparently, nightmarish equals giant rabbit. Cue her version of Tito’s rant about dwarves in dream sequences (Living in Oblivion). There. She’s said her piece. I’m sure she feels better now …

The language in the contemporary parts sometimes felt a bit too obvious, and as a result,  sometimes it felt as though Mephistopheles lost a little of the otherworldliness introduced and performed with such brilliance in the first acts. We perhaps didn’t need to have such blatant examples of evil in order to believe… Having said that, we did enjoy the contemporary acts of the play, and the contrast between them and the original Marlowe text; they were bold, quite fun and introduced a bit more of the conflict in Faustus’ mind.

Whenever Faustus begins to examine the wisdom and morality behind his choices he is told to ‘think on the devil’ and a distraction is created to divert him. Similarly, the heavyweight ideas in the fabric of the play disappear once the show is done, leaving behind a sense of having been thoroughly entertained.

Doctor Faustus closes this weekend, but if you get the chance, do go along to see it. We’d love to hear your views …