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Friday, 23 October 2015

Not so summer holiday

Last year's day trip to St Ives.
Where most people enjoy warm, sunny breaks away in the summer, this year I decided to book my break in October. Not just because autumn is beautiful and my favourite season, but the usual boring 'money/busy at work/don't have time in the summer months' excuses too.
July is normally my time of escape. Cornwall has become a ritual trip every year, so I'd shove a handful of summery clothes in a holdall, jump in the car, and 6 hours later we're there. Glorious sunny weather, endless stretches of beach and seas so blue they hurt your eyes. Needless to say my bikini will be staying firmly in its drawer this year. I love sea swimming, I don't love hypothermia.

I'm still seriously excited. Cornwall is just stunning, and I imagine autumn makes it even more beautiful. A bag full of jumpers and cosy knits will keep the cold at bay, and I'll be off stomping around the countryside. And maybe still getting my toes wet on the beach.

I normally stay in Newquay, I love water sports and the laidback surf culture there is my kind of thing. But this year I'm off to St Ives. I've visited before, but haven't stayed for longer than a day. I'm so looking forward to exploring. It really is a beautiful spot. Great views, wonderful places to eat, and an old-world charm that entices you to stay. Plus a friend of mine lives there, so I'm looking forward to a catch-up, over cocktails of course. That's not to say that I won't be retreading any familiar ground. I may have to pay a visit to Healey's Cyder Farm to stock up, and the temptation to visit one of my favourite restaurants in Newquay may result in a cross-county drive. Plus the shopping in Truro is pretty good...!

So I will be off the grid for a few days, but needless to say, I'll be reporting on my adventures when I get back. If I come back. I make no promises. Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Turmeric and the golden milk

Recently, I've been trying to be more experimental with my diet and exercise. I don't 'do' diets, but I do like to change things up, for example, adding white tea to my routine, or trying sriracha. I recommend both. White tea has a beautifully delicate taste and made a marked difference to how well I felt after a few days of drinking it, and sriracha is just delicious, I eat it on everything!

I know some of the products out there can be 'faddy' or seem insincere in their health benefits. But as anyone who reads my posts knows, I regularly indulge in less healthy options, so it's nice every  now and then to incorporate a food, drink or ingredient that is healthier. It's not always successful (I can't abide coconut water for example, it just doesn't suit my tastebuds), but it is always fun to try.

I'm always on the lookout for new ideas, or even old ones that I haven't necessarily come into contact with. Matcha is on my hitlist at the moment, as is turmeric. I keep seeing Instagram posts and Pinterest articles about turmeric's health benefits, and the concept of 'golden milk', a turmeric based beverage that is meant to have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.

I have the spice in my cupboard, it's a staple for any homemade curry and comes in handy to have around. I'm quite tempted to try this idea out, but I wanted to do my research.

There is a lot of noise about the brilliance of golden milk. Firstly, you make the 'golden paste', recipes of which vary, but is predominantly turmeric, black pepper and water. This is then added to milk, or a milk alternative, such as almond milk, and with flavour variations including vanilla, honey, coconut oil and cinnamon. The idea behind the drink is to draw all of the nutritional and medicinal benefits from the turmeric, and create a tasty drink.

Turmeric is lauded for its supposed benefits: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, clearing of the skin, anti-cancer properties and blood purifier. It's important to note that this isn't hugely researched, particularly not when it comes to human trials. But it has been in use in eastern philosophy and medicine for centuries, and some research has been conducted into seeing whether these benefits actually exist. It should be said that it has been suggested that anyone on anticoagulant medication should approach with caution, as it is believed to have blood-thinning properties so can have a negative impact. However, it is not believed to have any negative outcomes, as long as ridiculous amounts are not consumed, and a lot of people out there are swearing by it. I tend to take these recommendations with a pinch of salt, but I am intrigued by what I might find.

Variations of golden milk recipes can be found at the following websites. I'll be trying a few of them out to see if I find one to suit me. I'll keep you posted!
http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/golden-milk-recipe-with-turmeric-and-virgin-coconut-oil/
http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/golden-milk.html
http://www.instructables.com/id/Golden-Milk/

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Apple Day at Bromham Mill

I've been going on about it throughout a few posts now, and today Apple Day finally arrived!


A celebration of all things apple, Bromham Mill is a beautiful setting to celebrate it. I've been going for a few years now and look forward to it every October, it's become one of my favourite autumnal traditions.

There's a real mixture of things to do, and it's a quintessentially British affair. Apple bobbing, cider bars, hog roasts, Morris Men dancing for the crowds.

The first thing we do on arrival is have a good nose around the stalls. There's a multitude of stands - food, preserves, drinks, crafts, charities, all catering for the thousands who visit. The first we came across was the Owl Sanctuary, being supported by some of their most feathery friends.




We then came across our friends from the Happy Brewer. Anyone that's read my previous posts will know that these are the guys I turn to for all of my home brewing goodies. Last year they helped me make my own white wine, and advised me on what to do with my sloes from making sloe gin (making Slider). Today they were convincing me of the benefits of making your own spirits at home and advising me of what kit I would need to start up. That's my new project sorted for January! The Happy Brewer is a family-run business, with a real wealth of knowledge about the products they sell and how to make the best home brews possible. This all stemmed from brewing being a hobby of theirs, before buying the shop 5 years ago. They offer great service and are just lovely, genuine people. I can't recommend them enough! Find out more about them at www.thehappybrewer.com


After visiting the next few businesses sharing their wares, we made our first purchase. We met the lovely Elisabeth Evershed on her homemade cider and soft drinks stall. What caught my eye was her gorgeous ginger beer. 3 varieties were on offer: traditional, cinnamon and damson. I tried the traditional and damson, both of which were stunning. As a huge fan of all things plummy, I went for a bottle of the damson ginger beer, with its delightful pink hue, a fruity flavour with a gingery kick. We also had a chat with her about her products and how she sources her ingredients. Neighbours and friends of hers are happy to allow her access to their fruit trees, collecting windfall to make her drinks. It's wonderful that people are so generous. Find out more about Elisabeth at http://www.evershedscider.co.uk/Introduction.html.

A little further on we met Jo from Uniquely Yours by J. Jo makes utterly gorgeous memory boxes, photo frames, mirrors, wooden bunting and butterfly and heart hangings, all hand painted and so, so sweet. Everything on her stall would make a wonderful gift for someone, and with Christmas coming up, it would be great idea to see what she has to offer. Either that or you can treat yourself, I'm thinking about it! Jo doesn't have a website but she is on Facebook so go over, check out her page and give it a like. She'll also be at the upcoming Vintage show at the Centre MK.

After our first sweep around the stalls, we were feeling a bit parched, so it was time to visit one of the cider bars. Local brewers and micro brewers offer up some of their best ciders (hard cider to our American friends), it would be rude not to sample some of them. I tried a lovely example called Burrow Hill. Smooth and tasty, it was a great choice. Suicider was the choice of my partner in crime, and if the name doesn't give you an idea of what it was like, the shocking orange colour of it would have!

After that, we visited the stalls inside the tent set up for the apples. I was treated to some Falstaff apples (yum), and some bottled local brews from Glebe Farm including a refreshing strawberry cider. I also received a beautiful ruby and gold coloured glass candle holder from The Lemon Tree as another treat. I've visited The Lemon Tree stall at several events, admiring all the lanterns, tea light holders, candles and wind chimes. I bought a gorgeous lantern from there some time ago, and had hoped to see them again soon. Today was my lucky day!


After buying some very fresh corn on the cob from the fruit and veg stall, we took a walk through the woods, back to the car, and off to the local pub, The Swan for a quick drink before home and warming up. 

The weather wasn't up to much, being a grey, dowdy blanket on the day, but it dampened no spirits. The fayre was as popular as ever, with people flocking to visit. The mill is beautiful no matter what the weather, and the trees offered some much needed shelter when the rain decided to pay a visit. It was a fantastic day, I'm already looking forward to next year!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

French Toast Indulgence

As much as I like to get out and about, it's been ages since I had a day at the weekend with nothing planned, to do with as I pleased. No must-do shopping, no urgent housework, no big evening outing.

So I started with a lie-in. Not something I'm prone to do (although it does have a tendency to happen when I don't intend it to...), but it was thoroughly enjoyed. And how better to follow up a lazy lie-in than with an indulgent brunch?

One of my favourite things to throw together when hungry and not hugely concerned about being healthy, is french toast. It's soft, gooey warmth is always a winner, especially on a cold morning with a cup of white tea. That's white tea leaves, not black tea with milk!

Not overly difficult to make, and adaptable to most toppings, you only have to rely on a few cupboard essentials to throw it all together. I pour/measure freehand when making these, so please forgive the lack of measurements.

First, crack eggs into a bowl. Use 1 egg per 2 slices of bread if using large eggs, if in doubt do this, then pop an extra into the bowl just to be safe. Pour in a good glug of semi-skimmed milk.


Then add a healthy dose of ground cinnamon and about 1/2 - 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Anyone who doesn't like cinnamon or vanilla, feel free to experiment with a favoured spice or flavour. Nutmeg is another personal favourite of mine.


Take 2 slices of slightly stale bread per person, and thoroughly coat in the mixture. Using stale bread ensures that it will retain its shape and not fall apart.


Heat some butter in a large frying pan. Once the butter is sizzling, place 1 or 2 slices of your bread into the pan. If cooking for more than 1 person, place the slices into an oven-proof dish and place into a pre-heated oven. This process doesn't take long so there's no fear of them drying out.


When all cooked, stack onto a plate, sprinkle with icing sugar and maple syrup. Enjoy!


Golden syrup is another popular choice in my house. If you want a healthier alternative, top with fresh fruit and yoghurt, or drizzle with honey and sprinkle some chia seeds and almonds. The world is your oyster.

Apart from eating my bodyweight in french toast, I indulged in not one, but 2 films. Ah the benefits of an Unlimited Card!

First up was Crimson Peak. I'm a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro and Tom Hiddleston so this was a must. It's a new take on an old genre, paying homage to the gothic romance, and I have to say it's really well done. A great film, and perfect with Halloween coming up.

A glass of red at the local pub broke things up, then it was off to see another del Toro, this time Benicio, in Sicario. Based on the USA government's war on mexican drug cartels, it's a deep thinker. Possibly a little too deep for Saturday night fodder, but a good film none-the-less. Emily Blunt was her usual brilliant self, but del Toro steals the show.

It's been lovely to have a day to really indulge in things that I love, with nothing else threatening to occupy my time. And with Apple Day to look forward to tomorrow, it is just looking to get better and better! Now I'm home, and it'll be a cup of tea and a good book to end a lovely day on an even lovelier note.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A quick catch-up

After a couple of weeks of threatening to happen, this weekend I finally succumbed to illness. Which was rubbish because we had so much planned that couldn't happen. A couple I am friends with had a naming ceremony for their lovely little boy, but I couldn't attend. A catch up with a friend home for a few days from Cornwall was missed. I was not impressed. I did manage to squeeze some fun in at least!

I did manage to pop to the Bedford Beer Festival on Friday, and spent a couple of hours trying various different local beverages. I even managed to convince my folks to attend this year, which was fun. They seemed to enjoy it, so I think it may become an annual outing! I love the festival. Anyone that reads this blog will know I enjoy beer, so it's no surprise I enjoy a festival dedicated to the stuff!. I also love the atmosphere, everyone is just looking for a relaxing evening, socialising with friends and enjoying a good drink or 3. I discovered some great local pints, and one of my favourites was present, Plum Mild produced by Banks & Taylor Brewery (http://www.banksandtaylor.com/index.htm )based in Shefford, Beds. It's a fruity dark beer, a little on the bitter side but with a hint of chocolate. And it goes down far too easily! It's served in my favourite 'proper' pub, the Wellington Arms, that's if you are lucky to grab a pint. It's a popular tipple! It was a lovely evening. Everyone is so friendly at these events, and it's always a popular place to be.


Unfortunately, Saturday was very much wasted. I hate being ill, there's always a sense of what was missed out on while you're languishing away in a heap of duvets, tissues and self-pity! So I dragged my backside out of bed on Sunday, determined to be more productive. What actually happened was that I was hugely spoilt.

We decided to drive to Milton Keynes and have a wander around the shops, but there was a purpose. A new hat and lipstick were on the agenda. First, a visit to the MAC counter in Debenhams. I've wanted a new autumnal colour for ages and finally had the opportunity to hunt one down. I wanted a berry colour, not too red. But as a blonde and as milky-white as can be, I thought this may be a struggle. However, it wasn't as traumatic as it could have been. After decorating my wrist with a selection of stripes, I found the perfect colour. Hang-Up is one of Mac's cremesheen range and described as a deep berry shade. The more you layer on the more intense the colour. Blotting it leaves a pretty, berry hue that lasts beautifully. It's a fab colour for this time of year, and you don't need the complexion of a sun bunny to carry it off.

Next up, I was hunting a hat. On my way around Covent Garden during a recent trip to the city to see Lord of the Dance, (see review here: http://lilysalittlebitofeverything.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/lord-of-dance-dangerous-game.html) I found a gorgeous hat in Accessorize. Oversized and floppy, in a lovely soft pink shade, it was perfect for autumn/winter days out. Rather than traipsing it around London, I decided to wait until I got home to buy it here, only to discover that my local store doesn't stock it. Luckily MK did not let me down! Find it here at http://uk.accessorize.com/view/product/uk_catalog/acc_5,acc_5.32/8910321400. Even nicer, I wasn't allowed to spend a penny, being treated to my lovely new goodies and a spiced pumpkin latte as well.

When we got home, the slow cooker was, the house smelled amazing and was warm and toasty. Reading and some colouring in the evening and I was worn out. A perfect Sunday.

I think I'm getting quite good at this!


I'm slowly on the mend thankfully, hopefully meaning I'll be posting more in the coming week. I'm determined to be completely healthy by next weekend, Apple Day approaches and I'm not prepared to miss out!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Rugby World Cup: Fiji v Uruguay 06.10.2015

Last night I was lucky enough to go to my first rugby match. It also just happened to be a World Cup rugby match. The friends that took us are my official favourite people of the month!

I've been attending football matches since I was 11. I've seen some of the biggest teams in the world, and visited nearly all the top stadiums in England. I love live sport, the atmosphere, the skill, the bringing together of thousands of people with a common purpose. I can honestly say that last night was one of the best experiences at a sports event I've had.

The atmosphere was electric, from boarding the bus in the centre of Milton Keynes, to arriving and entering the MK Dons Stadium. One of the pleasures of watching 2 teams you don't have a vested interest in is that you can kick back and just enjoy. Members of the crowd were waving both national flags, wearing the shirts, donning the scarves, not because they were Fijian or Uruguayan, but because they wanted to show appreciation for the teams preparing to put on a show for us to enjoy. 

Our seats were ridiculously close to the pitch, our view was fantastic! Even watching the teams warm up was enjoyable. Everyone stood respectfully as the national anthems were sung, and then the Fiji team kicked off the show in style, performing the Cibi, a war dance adopted by the team in answer the All Blacks Haka. It was amazing watching these guys roaring at their opponents and got everyone into the spirit of the occasion.
Fiji Cibi
Then the game kicked off. In the first 30 seconds, a Fijian player murdered the corner flag nearest us, obviously finding it offensive! Credit to both teams, they gave it their all. Fiji took an early lead, but Uruguay admirably kept up the pace, constantly fighting back. An impressive feat considering the size differences between them and the Fiji team. Those boys are huge! Number 11 is forever christened Juggernaut in my mind now (his real name is Nadolo but I'm sure he won't mind), the guy is a tank. At one point, one Fijian player had 4 Uruguayan players clinging to him in the hopes of wrestling him to the floor, and still he powered on. There were some brilliant tries, incredibly flamboyant plays and downright chancing, it was a great game. 7 tries for Fiji and the game was won.












There's a lot said about the English, particularly regarding sport. We get a lot of good natured abuse (some not so much), and we take it in good humour. We occasionally like doling it out too! Last night, I was so proud of my nation. When it comes to this kind of event, we really show up. I doubt there were a huge number of true fans of either Fiji or Uruguay in the stadium last night, but both teams had a wealth of support. Every player got cheered on, every play was applauded. Each point scored was celebrated like we had won the final. Say what you will, but our hospitality, our spirit and our willingness to support others is immense. The Olympics 3 years ago was a huge demonstration of Britain's capacity to put on a glorious show, to welcome the world into our home and throw them a party. Last night was a lovely reminder of that. I hope they felt at home. the fact that last night's crowd, at 30,048, was the largest ever hosted by MK's stadium says a lot.

We're not in it for ourselves anymore, something England fans will shake their heads in disappointment at for years to come, and no doubt something our Welsh companions will enjoy reminding us of too (and the Scottish and Irish for that matter...). But I'm so pleased I got to be a small part of it, and that the English are throwing themselves into supporting other teams in the tournament, happily waving the flags of other nations and enjoying the spectacle of the World Cup. 

In the meantime, I'm going to sit here and hope that we host it again in my lifetime, so that I can catch a few more games. Until then I'll settle for the 6 Nations, and hopefully rectifying that bloody score against Wales...




Monday, 5 October 2015

Monday not-so-blue

How is it that after planning to do nothing at the weekend, you can still end up rushed off of your feet and needing a break by the time Monday rolls around?

Regardless of how much I try to stay still it just doesn't happen. But I'd have been bored otherwise so no more complaining.

I started my weekend with a viewing of Everest, the new Jason Clarke film based on true events. Although it skimped on character development a little, and crammed the story into 2 hours (it could have been 3), it played out well. I won't be in a rush to watch it again though, as I left the cinema crying my eyes out with mascara on every part of my face bar my eyes. I don't usually cry easily at films (I'm more of a book-crier), but the true-story nature of this one got to me.

On to cheerier things. After a morning wandering around the shops, we decided to stop off at a new patisserie that has opened up in town. Delices can be found nestled into the side of The Art Centre in Bedford, Delices is described on its website as "the authentic Parisian boulangerie-patisserie in Bedford" (http://www.delices.co.uk/index.php). It's a lovely space, light and airy, with a vintage feel. China sugar bowls with flower patterns, vintage mugs and cups, and an array of sweet and savoury bakes in their counter. I've been wanting to visit for a while, so was pleased to finally have the opportunity. We caught it after the lunchtime rush, so were able to find a table and order quickly. Service was friendly, and the food looked delicious. Rustic french breads, delicate pastries and intricate cakes fill the counter, making choosing somewhat difficult! I decided on the Le Flan Parisien (a vanilla custard tart) and a latte, my partner in crime going for a macchiato and chocolate confection whose name has slipped my mind. Both sweet treats were gorgeous, and it's one of the best coffees I've had in awhile. The flavours were perfectly balanced and the atmosphere was spot on. The Art Centre is the perfect place for this new addition, meaning that after a meander around the shop, you can rest your shop-tormented legs and treat yourself to something naughty. Now I know how good it is, I have a feeling I'll be needing to visit the gym more!

Once I had consumed my body weight in pastry, I collected some green tomatoes to make chutney that didn't happen (it will. Eventually.) and headed home to watch the rugby. Disappointing to say the least but the better team won, we'll do better next time. I'll be visiting the MK Dons stadium this Tuesday to watch Fiji and Uruguay so I'm still caught up in rugby fever!

Sunday was cleaning and cooking day, before going to see Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender. I am a huge Shakespeare fan, and the acting from everyone involved was brilliant, but something about this just didn't do it for me. It has taken a battle-fuelled, bloodthirsty play and stuck it on one setting. The feel of it plateaued incredibly early, and eventually felt like it was going through the motions. But the acting is spectacular, especially from Fassbender.

Now it's back to work and another busy week. No rest for the wicked as the saying goes. But with so much to look forward to this week, Monday isn't seeming so bad. I'll be writing up about tomorrow's rugby so keep an eye out!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Annnd stop

Wow it's been a hectic week. My normally calm work life has gone full-on bonkers, which is great in it's own way - the days go quicker and I feel completely useful - but it has led to me being (yet again) completely anti-social. Instead of venturing out, I've taken root on my sofa, indulging in colouring (see Instagram for pictures), and watching a combination of the Great British Bake-Off, True Blood and Game of Thrones. I have started a part-time college course which takes place on a Monday evening, meaning my brain is engaged for far too long and too early during the week for me to be any use to anybody for the rest of it. I am seriously looking forward to my weekend.

I'm not crazily booked up this weekend, so I'm looking forward to a relaxed one. I may stick myself in the kitchen and try my hand at making green tomato chutney. I have an abundance of green tomatoes, my batch deciding not to redden (with the exception of one determined bruiser at the back), and it seems a pity for them to just be chucked on the compost, and I'll post the recipe when I see the results. It's either that or defrost some of the Victoria plums currently residing in my freezer. This may be a better bet, as, what with all the frozen fruit living in there, I have absolutely zero space for any actual food!
Lonesome red tomato
Apart from that and decanting the rest of my Slider and Cranberry vodka (see earlier posts), I'll be taking care of my neglected little garden. Having hastily shoved some winter plants in last weekend, I've given it next to no love and the local slugs seem to be taking full advantage of my absence. Sprinkle a cinema trip to see Everest and perhaps a cheeky drink on Sunday lunchtime while dinner is stewing in the oven and that's me taken care of.
Before Team Slug got their grubby suckers on them
There's a huge amount of activity coming up in the next few weeks - the Bedford Ale Festival starts this Wednesday, a naming ceremony and a lovely friend's birthday follow next weekend, then heading towards Apple Day, Bedford Chilli Festival, Halloween, Bonfire Night festivities and a theatre trip - so I'm going to try and enjoy doing very little while I can! As lovely as it is being busy and sociable, sometimes you just need to sit back and let things just happen at their own pace and relax, rather than plan every minute of every day.

Right, I'm off to yoga. I said I was taking this relaxation thing seriously!


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Social media domination afoot

I have finally sat myself down and set up the A Little Bit of Everything Twitter account. I am incredibly lazy when it comes to social media, so it is no mean feat!

I'll be posting up my blog entries, tweeting photos, and generally being hilarious and charming (or attempting to be. Anyone that knows me will quickly inform you that the person who finds me the most funny is, well, me).

Already, after about an hour of the account being open, my blog views have flown upwards, so anyone reading this through the Twitter links, thank you! It's amazing how one platform can connect us to so many people. I'm finding it increasingly amazing to see where people are viewing ALBoE from, it's fantastic! One of the many pleasures I've had since starting out is watching to see what country I can get a view from next. I won't be stopped until I've reached all of you!

You can find me at https://twitter.com/Lilysalittlebit, so please do take a look. If you're a frequent Tweeter it will be a convenient way for you to see all latest posts and some of the older ones should you want to.

Also, don't forget that I am now up and running on Instagram and Pinterest, links to all social media pages can be found at the top of any blog page.

While I'm here, I wanted to say thank you for making this such a pleasant journey so far, and for taking time out of your day to read my craziness. It means a lot and doesn't go unnoticed. You're all a bit lovely really!