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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday lounging with a hint of rhubarb

I never used to enjoy Sundays. They were the pre-cursor for whatever Monday had to offer - back to school, a fresh week at work etc. Now however, I love them. A languid, slow mooch into what the rest of the week has to offer, I'm usually found making something, going to the gym or spending time literally melding into my sofa catching up on all the T.V. I've missed recently. This bank holiday Sunday, I've done all of the above, happy in the knowledge that Monday can't do me any harm.

After spending a lazy morning enjoying breakfast and a good read, I took myself off to the gym (working off all that homemade cranberry vodka discussed in a previous post). I enjoy the gym once I'm into the swing of things, and generally want to participate in exercise, but something about weekend workouts tends to feel off-kilter, like relaxing time off work shouldn't be spent sweating away in a box-like room full of torture devises. But with an extra day to while away not at my desk, I figured I should probably utilise my membership!

On my return home, I hit the kitchen. I'm lucky to work with 2 lovely ladies who both grow delicious rhubarb in their gardens, and I have had a hearty donation from both. The first batch is currently stored in my freezer, waiting to be soaked in vodka with a vanilla pod, to become my new favourite alcoholic beverage. I'll be posting more about this once I get round to actually making it!

The second batch had been specifically designated to make a rhubarb crumble, one of my parents favourite desserts. I'd never made it before (having never actually eaten rhubarb before), so it was an experiment in the making.

Firstly, I chopped up the rhubarb and laid it out on a baking tray, drizzled with roughly 8 tbsp of caster sugar and 4 tbsp of water, and popped into a pre-heated oven (180C) for about 12 minutes.



Whilst that was roasting away, I made the crumble component. 110g unsalted butter, 180g flour and 110g demerara sugar into a bowl and rub together until you achieve a crumb-like consistency. 



I removed the rhubarb from the oven, spooned it into an oven proof dish, and sprinkled the crumble mixture over the top. Then it was back into the oven for a further 35 minutes.
Once cooked, I let it cool for a little while, then whisked it off to my parents, where we enjoyed it with hot custard. I can safely say I am a rhubarb convert!

After enjoying dessert before dinner, and a lovely cup of tea, we decided to take a trip to one of our favourite pubs, the 3 Cups. Found on St Cuthbert's Street in Bedford, the 3 Cups is a real ale house full of character. A lovely atmosphere, friendly bar staff, and a really welcoming environment, we took root for a couple of hours, enjoying a leisurely pint (or 2).


While here we discovered that they serve take-away beer. Take-away beer! Such a brilliant concept, you can purchase your favourite beer (or beers) in 2 pint cartons. As we have different tastes in ale, we chose our favoured pint, had it boxed up, and are currently enjoying them in the comfort of our own living room! 
All in all, a pretty fabulous bank holiday Sunday. If only there were more in the calendar!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Today saw the return of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Bromham Mill. So we followed the White Rabbit (jumping in the car being the modern day equivalent) and went to join in the fun.

We decided to start our visit by seeing what the craft stalls had to offer. We stumbled upon Boodles Doodles, a charming collection of hand-stitched and painted framed keepsakes, covering any occasion you can imagine, and commissioned work is accepted. There were also beautiful cushions displaying some of the designs, including a fantastic tribute to the poppy installation at the Tower of London. See more details at the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boodles-Doodles-Mobile-Ceramic-studio-and-Art-workshop-specialist/163911506979450?fref=ts. I have a few friends that might be receiving these as gifts myself.

Moving on, we made friends with the gorgeous Rudi, face and inspiration of Rudi's Doggy Bakery.

I don't currently have a canine companion (a work in progress), but if I did this business would be on my hit list, providing goodies, treats, even cakes, beautifully packaged for doggy pals everywhere. They had the perfect selling devise, who could resist this face?! And such a good model! If anyone has a four legged friend and wants to treat them, I'd really suggest checking these guys out. Their products are gorgeous, customer service is excellent and they are generally just an incredibly likeable duo who obviously love man's best friend. Find them at www.rudisthedoggybakery.com and take a look at what they have to offer.






 Next up was Humber's Preserves, a favourite local company of mine, who produce some of the loveliest preserves in the area. First encountering them at last year's Apple Day celebrations, I still have some glittery Jingle Jam residing in my fridge, a christmas special of theirs. They travel around the county selling their lovely wares and can be found at www.humberspreserves.co.uk.

Taking a look at a few more lovely stalls, we stopped to chat with the lovely ladies manning the Bead Orchard stand (www.beadorchard.com). Tracey Horne and Janet Thomason produced handmade beaded jewellery which, as well as being incredibly detailed and rather lovely, are stand-out, bold, different pieces for those who love their jewellery to show individuality. I treated myself to one of their gorgeous charm bracelets, complete with teapot and cupcake charms (very much in keeping with the theme of the day!), with lots of room left to add more.

I wasn't the only one indulging in a little splurge. Having convinced my mum to come along, she thoroughly enjoyed flicking through the greetings cards found at the Unique Handmade Cards stall, choosing 10 stunning cards to whisk off home. There's no website for this one but you can contact the lovely Birgit at birgitdas@hotmail.co.uk with any questions.
She also bought an embroidered ring to pop by for yours truly until my birthday rolls around again, and I've solemnly promised to forget it's existence until then!

Aside from craft stalls, there was plenty going on, including flamingo croquet:


painting the roses (to keep the Queen of Hearts happy):

Alice characters wondering all around, entertaining everybody:



and general merriment all round. A lovely relaxed atmosphere, we had a really enjoyable time wondering around, having a look, grabbing a bite to eat, and generally just enjoying the lovely attention to detail that has gone into turning Bromham Mill into a setting fit for a fairytale. Teacups hanging from tree branches, playing cards and cupcakes adorning bushes and the actual tea party itself created a whimsical environment, and the kids and adults alike seemed charmed and a little bit enchanted with it all. The fun continues tomorrow from 10am until 4pm. I'd recommend you visit and get caught up in the fall down the rabbit hole!









Friday, 28 August 2015

Happy Friday

Like everyone else UK-based, I'm so glad the bank holiday is almost here! Fingers are firmly crossed for a happy time weather-wise, as there is much activity to look forward to over the next few days.

Anyone in the area who finds themselves at a bit of a loose end this Saturday or Sunday should take a look at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party event happening at Bromham Mill (visit http://heyevent.uk/event/itr4vhwgx3stka/mad-hatters-tea-party-at-the-mill-2015 for more details). It looks like it will be a lovely day out for adults and kids alike.

I have an action-packed week ahead of me, with a trip to Alton Tours on Wednesday, tickets book to see the Lord of the Dance stage show in London on Friday, and have found out I'm incredibly lucky and have Foo Fighters tickets now in my grubby hands for the 6th Sept! Cannot explain how excited I am but there will be many a picture to follow!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Another boozy post

Having posted yesterday about my adventures with sloes, I started thinking about some of the other lovely liquids I've tried making over the past few months.

For the last couple of Christmases I've put together handmade hampers for loved ones. The first comprised of a few homemade goodies supported by other shop bought gifts. Last Christmas I decided to make all the contents (only attempt this if you are a) incredibly blessed with free time; or b) are completely insane. I fall into the latter category). Included in my list of items to make were white wine and cranberry vodka.

The white wine was a sauvignon blanc variety, a kit purchased in the Happy Brewer, mentioned in my last post. It was a relatively simple process, all the stages having to be completed after a few days, so it was nicely broken down. The end result was a really quite tasty (albeit very strong) wine. The kit itself cost and exceptionally reasonable £12.95 and produced 6 bottles of wine that I'd have been happy to pay £10 each for.

It was then on to making my festively flavoured vodka. I used a combination of fresh and frozen cranberries (for no other reason other than I happened to have both in the house), popped them in a clip-top jar with plenty of sugar, topped up with vodka and left it to it's own devises for a couple of weeks. There was something incredibly satisfying about seeing a deep red hue develop in the jar, especially after giving it its weekly turn to get the berries moving and the sugar dissolving. Once ready, the liquid was strained through a boiled muslin and decanted into clip-top bottles. I did this about 2 weeks before handing the hampers over, allowing the flavour and colour to mature for a little longer. Mixed with lemonade this is a really gorgeous drink, and it really shouldn't just be for Christmas!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Having sloe fun this weekend!

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that it's a rare week that slips by without me attempting a new craft or creating a different concoction. It's now a running joke with my best friend and me that, should I be late to a get-together between us, the chances are I'll be in the kitchen potting chutney (the result of trying to combine making my own Christmas hampers and her birthday night out. Oops!).

This week has seen me bottling up a first attempt at making Slider. Having made and bottled our first batch of sloe gin earlier this year, it seemed such a shame to just dispose of those lovely berries that had turned the clear gin a beautifully deep purple tone, so I took to researching other uses for them.
It was during a conversation with the owner of the Happy Brewer (http://www.thehappybrewer.com/), a fantastic home brewing supply shop in Bedford where I buy all my home brewing goodies, that I was told about the delights of adding gin-soaked sloes to a demijohn full of cider. Pop an airlock in the neck of the demijohn and you're all set. It really is as simple as that.

It's suggested that the sloes are left to infuse for roughly 6-8 weeks before bottling, although I did leave mine in a couple of weeks longer, not being entirely satisfied with the strength of the colour or scent. Now I have a gorgeous, light rose coloured, fruity smelling cider.
Once completely bottled, it needs to be left to mature. I plan on leaving mine for at least 6 months, to allow that flavour to really deepen and develop. I have a feeling that the combination of gin AND cider will mean this would make a better long drink, mixed with lemonade and lots of ice, potentially being a little to strong to drink purely by itself. But I'm looking forward to finding out!

The bottling of the slider has coincided quite nicely with this year's sloe picking. The harvest was seriously impressive this year, but, in order to be a thoughtful, responsible forager, please remember to only pick as much as you need, leaving enough fruit behind for others or the wildlife. We managed to pick an impressive load, which are now residing comfortably in the freezer (their first 'frost' as it were. Sloes shouldn't be used until they have experienced freezing).

In a few weeks' time they will be mixed with sugar and gin or vodka (I haven't quite decided yet), and come to bottling next year, should this years' slider work well, I'll be starting the process again! Until then, the bottles will have to be hidden, lessening the temptation to crack one open to 'sample' any sooner than we should!

How to follow

Being new to this blogging game, I'm still ironing out a few teething issues (mainly due to my technophobia), and have realised that I cannot simply attach a 'Follow' button for the blog. Thankfully my lovely friend has shown me the way to manually follow. I apologise for the lengthy method in which to do this, I can only promise to make my posts as worthy of your effort as possible!
So, how to follow:

1) Copy the blog web address in the address bar;
2) Close the cookies info bar that appears at the top, and click on the small orange 'B' logo in the top left-hand corner;
3) If you aren't signed in already, you'll be asked to log in to your google account. Once you've done that, click on the 'Add' button under Reading List. Paste the URL in there and press follow.      



                                                 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Spicing up the weekend at the Chilli Festival!

This weekend witnessed the return of the 4th annual Chilli Festival at Frosts Garden Centre in Willington, Beds. I'm ashamed to admit that this year saw my first experience of the event, but I will certainly return next year.

An array of beautiful, chilli-laden plants greeted us on entering the outdoor area of the Centre, now festively adorned with banners, posters and the odd sombrero. An impressive crowd had already gathered, and the live band,  Andalus, (http://www.andalusband.com/) were in full swing.

We decided to make our way to the abundance of stalls, all displaying the their tempting tasty wares. I'm a self-confessed cheese-oholic, so we made our start at The Cheese Board stall. A selection of Windyridge's spiciest concoctions greeted us, ranging from 'Chip Shop Curry' flavour, to the (slightly terrifying sounding) 'Afterburn', all of which were being offered as tasters in bite-sized morsels. Having tested a few (would be rude not to...),    we settled on purchasing the mature cheddar with Mexican spices, a really enjoyable cheese with plenty of flavour. See their link below and view what they have to offer!

http://www.windyridgecheese.co.uk/

Moving on, we sampled chilli-based alcoholic beverages. Unusual sounding I know, but stick with me. Fallen Angel Brewery had on offer a selection of 4 drinks, all of which can be found on their website:http://www.fallenangelbrewery.com/Fallen%20Angel.html. Attempting the Scotch Bonnet Cyder with admittedly a little apprehension, I was pleasantly surprised! A lovely, full-bodied cyder, the chilli really came through, but with only a small amount of heat, making for a really delicious cold drink. Next up, feeling slightly braver, I was talked into skipping the next couple of heat-levels and leaping into a sample of  Black Death. This devil is a porter/stout style infused with Naga chilli, which after some research, has proven to be a ridiculously hot variety (had I known this previously, I'm not entirely certain I could have been convinced to drink this beer!). Again, I was surprised, happily, that, rather than causing me to run, tongue singed to the nearest water supply, it was an enjoyably spicy beer, lots of flavour with just a kick at the end of each swallow.

Further stalls visited resulted in the purchase of a gorgeous Spicy Apple Chutney produced by The Indian Orchard based in Bletchley, a product proudly championed as being based on a family recipe past down from generation to generation, and a lovely rich chilli mayonnaise from Chiltern Cold Pressed, a rapeseed producer who also make a delightful selection of flavoured oils, vinaigrettes and infusions: http://www.chilterncoldpressedrapeseedoil.co.uk/products/#product-range.

Having thoroughly exhausted the stalls (and ourselves), we took a seat and enjoyed and a nice cold drink while listening to the fantastic music.

This made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon out, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what delights are on offer next year.
Adorable cacti display

Andalus in full swing!


The crowd enjoying all the delicious samples available at The Cheese Board stall.

A huge variety of different chilli plants were on display. I may have to include one in the garden!

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog, A Little Bit of Everything.

Blogging is a new experience for me. I wanted to start up a place where I can record all of my recent experiences, whether that be trips, days out, trying a new recipe or reviewing new music or films. Somewhere I can share with friends all of the things I love doing. I'm also hoping it will act as a catalyst, causing me to be braver when it comes to trying new things, all so I can come back and blog about it to you lovely people!

I'll be writing as much as possible, and uploading photos and videos of any new places I visit or shows I go to see. Please feel free to comment and feed back to me.

I hope you enjoy reading!