One Pot Pasta #BEDM

Last weekend, after getting told off one too many times by Tao, I realised that when I cook or bake, I use allllllll of the utensils possible. Pots, pans, plates, chopping boards, every piece of cutlery possible… messy Kat!

So, as I watched him do the dishes for what felt like the five hundredth time in a weekend, I promised Tao I’d cook something minimally messy next weekend. That time is here, and it means its time for one pot pasta.

You heard right! I’m going to cook a meal for two, in one pan, and no longer will anyone be able to say that every time I cook, I leave a trail of destruction.

Now I’ve made one pot pasta before, plenty of times, but this is the first time I’m really thinking about it properly. It’s not a case of boil some pasta and add a jar of sauce. This is from scratch baby, from scratch.

To serve two hungry pandas, you’ll need:

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350g of uncooked pasta (we had fusilli)
2 chicken breasts, cut into little bitesize pieces
100ml of double cream
1 red pepper
1 litre of chicken stock (or broth if you prefer)
a little bit of oil or frying spray
garlic – I used minced garlic from a jar
80g of parmesan – I prefer chunky slices for this dish, but finely grated works too

Start by cutting your chicken and red pepper into little pieces.

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Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat, and pour in around a tablespoon of oil, or a few spritzes of cooking spray – I used a mix of sunflower oil spray, and garlic oil spray.

This is my garlic secret weapon though:

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Fry your chicken and red pepper, with the minced garlic, in the pan until both are cooked on the outside. The chicken doesn’t need to be fully cooked through – it’ll continue to cook as you cook the pasta.

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For the stock, I tried out 2 of these stock melts in a litre of water, and they worked pretty well!

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When you’re happy with the colour of chicken – lightly browned – pour in your chicken stock, double cream and uncooked pasta. Turn the heat up so it starts to boil, then cover with a lid and turn down to a simmer.

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Now just sit back and let that baby simmer for 15-20 minutes.

The stock and cream will thicken, the pasta will soften, and it’ll all come together in a delicious creamy sauce. For the last 3-5 minutes I like to take the lid off the pan, to let a liiiitle bit of liquid evaporate – makes for a thicker sauce.

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When your pasta is soft and your sauce has thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the parmesan. Then bask in the beautiful creation you’re about to devour.

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Serve with a fresh crisp salad if you can be bothered, or just heap it on plates to feed hungry people as it is!

Enjoy!

A crafty handmade update #BEDM

Almost two years ago, I blogged about Making my own happiness – a blog post is here. It was a post done to part reassure myself that I’m not failing at life, part to help people and reassure them that they’re not failing at life, and part to show off my crafty wares.

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Crafting is a big part of my life – often it comes in tiny bundles, fitting neatly into my handbag (although I should be fair and admit that my craft supplies are instead taking over my home…) but the act of making something, with my hands, is one of my favourite things. Even better if I can make things for the people I love.

So I wanted to show a few snaps of things I’ve been making over the past few months. On the plus side – lots of pretty projects. On the downside – I only have iPhone photos of most things, and not many photos of finished articles. Lesson learnt.

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In October, when Tao and I went to Oslo (blogged ) and I promised I’d knit him a scarf in less than a week (on top of working full time at the time). The above is a snap from December of us both wearing handmade scarves – his was a rushed little thing, and was made quickly; mine was a Christmas gift from my own crafty mama.

Since then, Tao and I have had a long-running scarf joke, so over my Christmas holiday, I made him two more – I only have a photo of the in-progress blue scarf, but it was a huge success.

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(Also, backdrop for that scarf photo – bonus photobombing by a beautiful tile I got for Christmas – again, from my crafty mama!)

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The next two recent makes were a pair of mandalas – a mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the Universe, in Hinduism and Buddhism. They weren’t made for any real spiritual reason, more-so because I thought they were rather beautiful. They were a Christmas present for my mama.

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Bonus photo of the crochet Toad (of Mario fame) blanket I made for Tao – I’ve blogged the finished article, but the first photo is is a work-in-progress pic.

As I mentioned above, part of my love of crafting is that my projects tend to be quite small and portable. The Toad blanket was made up of hundreds of crochet granny squares – which in themselves are small and handbag-friendly. I was able to crochet anywhere and everywhere I went – until it came to stitching it together. I stitched it together in rows, before stitching each row together. I then added the blue sky and green grass corners. I love it – and it’s 7.30am here and Tao is currently napping underneath the blanket, so I’m going to speak for him and say he loves it too.

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This little beauty was the beginning of a scarf for Tao’s mum, for her birthday. Tao and I picked out the most beautiful yarn, seriously good quality. I finished the scarf in good time – and then promptly got a really awful cold on the weekend of her birthday, so I couldn’t go over to see her – but I’m told it was well received.

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And finally this little lady in progress is my current cross stitch project. It’s almost finished, and it’s been a super soothing craft to work on.

My cross stitch (or whatever I’m crafting at the time!), my boyfriend, and some food = ultimate happiness.

Mini strawberry pancakes #BEDM

Brunch is one of my favourite meals – of the day, of the week, in general. (Although my new favourite answer when I’m asked what my favourite food is? Buffet.)

This weekend, I decided on a leisurely Saturday morning brunch, where the star of the show would be strawberry pancakes. Inspired by Dutch poffertjes – mini, fluffy pancakes – I started playing with a recipe of my own.

To make a pile to feed an army (or two hungry pandas), you’ll need:

  • 170g of all purpose flour
  • 30g brown sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 250ml of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of oil – vegetable or sunflower works great
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract – better than essence, but if you can’t get it, not a deal breaker to go with essense
  • 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries – around 10-15 medium sized strawbs, cut into little chunks

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To make the batter, first mix all of your dry ingredients in a bowl.

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Then add all of the wet ingredients (minus the strawberries), and beat together until everything is mixed it – we’re going for light and fluffy, if liquid could ever be such a thing.

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Chop up your strawberries into little chunks:

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At the end, add your strawberries and mix through, but be careful not to completely smoosh them.

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Heat a large pan on a medium heat, and add a little bit of oil or a couple of spritzes of cooking spray (ala FryLight).

Top tips – don’t make your frying pan too hot, and remember we’re going for mini pancakes here!

When the frying pan is hot, pour dessertspoon size little pools of mixture in, aiming for 2-3 strawberry chunks per pancake.

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Cook each pancake for around 3 minutes on one side, until little bubbles appear on the top, then flip that baby over with a spatula and cook the other side for another 2 minutes. Obviously timings may vary, but we’re aiming for a golden brown colour.

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Serve with more fresh strawberries (if you have any left), maple syrup, whipped cream – whatever floats your boat.

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A Scandi-venture #BEDM

The topic for today in BEDM is adventure.

Last year in October, my boyfriend and I found ourselves by the river in London, in a beer garden, daydreaming about travel – from big holidays to little weekends away, we wanted something to make the grey autumn-winter months a bit more bearable.

A couple of pints later, we’d booked flights to Oslo for 2 weeks later. Queue me texting my then-boss to ask if I could have some last minute time off, and us pondering that suddenly we needed accommodation for a weekend in a city we didn’t know at all.

As it turns out, it was a pretty awesome adventure, that left us yearning for more.

We explored the city:

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Looking beautiful in autumnal shades of red and gold.

We went to a football match between the local team and.. another team.. Specifics be damned! Go local sports team!

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A tiny turn out, but a pretty awesome atmosphere.

We took full advantage of the blue skies:

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Blue skies + crisp autumn = everything looks beautiful.

We went on a boat trip around the fjords:

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One of my absolute favourite experiences, the scenery was out of this world gorgeous.

And we visited Vigeland Park:

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A beautiful sculpture park showcasing work by Gustav Vigeland.

Adventures, to me, don’t have to be 18 month treks around the planet, or bungee-jumping, or lion taming. They can be simple weekends away with your favourite person, exploring new spaces, and feeling happy to be alive.

An introduction of sorts #BEDM

#BEDM stands for Blog Every Day in May. A challenge a fully expect to fail, but at the same time am determined to give it a go. Even if that go is occasionally half-arsed.

BEDM sets topics and ideas for posts for every day of the month, and whilst I already know some of my posts won’t adhere to the list, I also know it’s all for fun really, and none of it is set in stone.

The first post topic is about introducing yourself. Now, I know I blog sporadically at best, but I also think by reading previous posts you can find out a bit about me. That said, I’ll still introduce myself.

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Hello, I’m Kat! I work as a freelance/contract UX designer – basically this means I make the web an awesome place to be. I love creating things – be it websites, apps, experiences handmade goodies, beautiful photographs or delicious food.

I live in London – hence the blog name – and I love this city. It’s a big ol’ tiring stressbag sometimes, but those “oh wow” moments make it worthwhile. Mostly.

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As mentioned, I work as a web designer, specialising in UX. UX = user experience, so one could say I design experiences. Except, I wouldn’t say that, because I think it’s somewhat inaccurate. At the end of the day, I try and make products, apps and websites that are a joy to use, that feel intuitive, build trust and loyalty, and that people want to keep using.

Part of my job involves creating wireframes like this:

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And I have a portfolio up at www.katskii.co.uk

I’m also a crafter, I love to knit and crochet, cross stitch and sew, do origami and other paper crafts. I made this:

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Perfect for nap time (another of my favourite things).

I love to eat, cook, bake, and continuously inspire myself, food-wise. My ambition is to have my own recipe book someday.

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I recently got back into making my own dough, and pizza, from scratch.

And finally travel. I love to travel, photography my journeys as I go.

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^ The amazing Casa Batlló in Barcelona.

I want to be happy, and work hard at it (the world doesn’t owe me diddlysquat – a girls gotta make it on her own!), I’m happiest when I’m with my boyfriend, and we’re cooking together, and I feel safe and content.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about adventures!

Barcelona day 2 – Camp Nou and Sagrada Familia

Day two in Barcelona was Tao’s birthday day, and I’d planned a couple of surprises for him.

In the morning, we went to Camp Nou, home of Futbol Club Barcelona. There’s a museum tour (I’d done it before and wasn’t particularly enamoured by it, but I knew the birthday boy would want to experience it). The history of the club is actually really interesting – it was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers led by Joan Gamper, and the museum tour experience is a mix of photos, stories, artefacts (such as original football strips and boots) and trophies. Oh lord so many trophies.

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Tao is an Arsenal fan and we had a sad little photoshoot next to a trophy that FCB won over Arsenal…

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Also as part of the tour you get to go outside the museum and into the stadium grounds – with a capacity of 99,000, its the biggest stadium in Europe. It’s somewhat hard to really comprehend just how big it is, even with photos…

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One of my favourite things about FCB is their slogan “Més que un club” (More than a club). It came to symbolise the Catalan people and their desire for freedom. The slogan is printed across the stadium.

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After a quick pitstop for tapas (patatas bravas with every meal, no regrets) we hopped in a taxi and sped over to Sagrada Familia. One of the most popular attractions in Barcelona, when pre-booking you have to choose a specific timeslot. As part of the tickets I bought, we got entry to the main church, entry up to the towers of one of the facades, and an audio guide.

Sagrada Familia is another Gaudi masterpiece. I don’t even think masterpiece is enough to describe it. Construction began in 1882, and in 2010 it passed the midway completion point. Currently its schedule to be finished in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi died. Previous estimates, based on the technology of the day, guessed that it would take hundreds of years to complete, but thanks to improvements in design technology (and a boost of funding), it should be finished earlier.

It’s difficult to know where to start when describing it. We entered from the Nativity facade. Ultimately there will be three grand facades – the completed Nativity facade (which has the most influence from Gaudi, having been worked on during his lifetime), the Passion facade which was completed in the 70’s, and the Glory facade whihc is yet to be completed.

The Nativity facade depicts the birth of Jesus. Because it was worked on during Gaudi’s lifetime, it’s intricate and elaborate, taking a lot of influence from nature. It’s overwhelming, to say the least.

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In comparison, the Passion facade is sparse, austere and full of harsh lines. Portraying the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion and the suffering of man, it’s a colder, more dramatic aspect. The Glory facade is still under construction and under tarpaulin, sadly!

But it’s the inside of the church that captured my heart.

Gaudi’s vision was a cathedral-sized church that embraced nature and brought light in intelligent and strategic ways. Often when we think of light and and wanting a well lit space, that space is just flooded with light and there’s no balance. Gaudi understood balance, and knew that too much light was not right for his vision either.

As you enter the church, you’re struck by phenomenal stained glass, giant tree-like pillars that spread into branches with leaves at the ceiling, and light.

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The stained glass is incredible, following Gaudi’s mosaic style (seen previously in Casa Batllo for example). We sat in the church (which is in a typical cross-shape) for a long time just marvelling at the light, the windows, the colours.

The ceiling is also beautiful beyond words – there are signs of nature everywhere, the columns themselves mirroring trees and branches.

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At the centre of the cross is a statue of Jesus, and despite not being religious myself, it was refreshing to see people acknowledge this is a church and not just a tourist attraction.

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As part of our trip, we took the (only slightly scary) lift up one of the towers on the Nativity facade. Way up high above the city, on a sunny day, it’s a stunning experience.

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That said, in hindsight, walking down the teeny tiny narrow spiral staircase, with occasional light from little windows, its quite a nervy experience. The lift up, in comparison, was a breeze. As you walk down, there are little balconies where you can step out and get a wonderful view of the city – but it’s definitely not for those with a fear of heights!

When we got back down to ground level (which took ages because seriously, that scary spiral staircase is slow-going) we explored the Passion facade and admired the towers.

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An absolute must-see in Barcelona – I know everyone says that, but I have to admit, before I visited the first time, I didn’t know much about it and wasn’t that bothered. Shame on me. It’s incredible, go and see it, you won’t regret it.

Barcelona day 1 – Casa Batllo

A couple of weeks ago I surprised my boyfriend with a trip to Barcelona for his birthday. He knew we were going somewhere (he had to take time off work after all) but didn’t know where until the day of. He’d only been to Barcelona as a tot, and whilst I’d been years ago and loved the city, my experience then wasn’t great, I wanted to go again with the best possible company.

On our first full day, I took him to Casa Batllo. One of Gaudi’s amazing creations, this former residence is full of mosaic tiles, stained glass, wavy lines (there are no straight lines in the building!) and light.

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One of my favourite buildings in Barcelona, the Noble room is my dream room. The whole building has a very visceral feel to it – this means it just “feels” right (literally its the gut feeling when something is good). Huge wavy windows let in light, stained glass balanced the light, and phenomenal chandeliers add shadows and texture.

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The ceilings are equally beautiful…

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I particularly loved photographing the lights from various angles – first how we’d normally view them, and then later from directly underneath, to see the shapes and patterns both of the fixtures and fittings but also the shadows they cast on the ceiling itself.

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I think my favourite is this next one – the directly-underneath-view was breathtaking, as the ceiling spirals beyond the light.

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Thankfully the owners of the house, Josep Batllo and his wife, who commissioned Gaudi to redesign it in 1904, were very open minded. They let him run free, and one of his most notable design features (and demonstration of how well he understood light and the need for different amounts of light at different levels) was the central atrium/elevator shaft that runs from top to bottom of the house.

Gaudi understood that at lower levels, more light was needed. He had the entire central well tiled in shades of blue. As you start at the bottom, the tiles are the lightest, palest blue – this would make the space brighter and reflect what little light reaches them. As you go further up, the tiles get darker, to signify more light reaching them, and less need for them to brighten the space.

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The rooftop and overall feel is somewhat skeletal – the roof is arched and curved and is thought to be the scaly back of a dragon (or dinosaur!), covered in more mosaic tiles to give texture and depth. It’s said that the rooftop spine, turrets and cross represent St George slaying the dragon – and I discovered that St George is not only the patron saint of England but also Catalonia, where Gaudi himself was from.

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Throughout the whole building, I got a sense of space and light – but not in a traditional way. Every element has been thought of differently, to be just right – not just typical big windows, but how the light fits the space.

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There’s also a little sun-trap terrace – it’s a little difficult to imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago because the sound of traffic and the neighbouring more-modern buildings change the vibe somewhat, but when it goes quiet, it’s a continuation of the truly beautiful building.

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^ Even outside on the terrace, the shapes are wavy and the mosaic tiles are plentiful.

Located on Passeig de Gracia, close to metro stations Diagonal and Passeig de Gracia, it costs around 25euro (that price includes an audioguide), and is absolutely worth visiting.

P.S. Should you wish, you can click through the photos and see them in an extra-giant scale. All dem megapixels at work…

Ally Pally boating adventure

At the end of the my last blog post, my parents and I were full of food from my birthday picnic. We decided some adventuring was in order, and made our way up to Alexandra Palace for a walk and a jaunt on the boating lake.

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Actually, first we found the bar in Ally Pally and had a few drinks admiring the view!

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“Stand closer together.. no, not that close, you can’t see the view.. no not that far apart either..” – family photos are the best. We took heaps more with us and the view, but the breeze turned my hair into a beehive, so I won’t be sharing them.

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Best parents.

My mama had been suffering from some knee problems (she explained to me what it is, but in Polish, and for the life of me I dunno what it is in English) so when we decided to go boating (pedalo-ing?), my dad and I said we’d pedal and mama would sit in the back and admire the view.

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We hopped into our car-shaped boat, and started pedalling with great gusto… aaaand about 10 seconds later realised how much bloody effort it was.

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The boating lake is small but cute, with an island in the middle for the ducks. When I was a kid, I loved water (I still do!) and ducks – and with my little toddler Geordie accent, would shout at the site of a duck – “dooook!”. Geordie babies, what a hoot.

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The island in the middle is home to all of the ducks, and they’ve made some cracking nests along the side – there are cliffs and floating nests, like a little hippy ducky commune.

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Beautiful afternoon, thank you parents!

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Birthday girl

It was my birthday last month, and I was fortunate to be able to take some time off work for it.

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My brilliant parents decided to come down to London for a couple of days to see me, the weather was perfect, so I decided to have a brunch picnic in the garden.

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I bought a ton of nibbly snacky things, but also decided to make some food. Two of my favourites – sweet potato and sausage hash, and homemade sausage rolls.

A quick rundown of the hash:

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Whack some sweet potato, sliced onion and rosemary into the oven

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Until it looks like this! (Roasted sweet potato has gotta be one of the most delicious things on earth)

In the mean time, prep some tomatoes (I went for little plum tomatoes) and garlic

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And fry some sausage meat – this stuff looks so gross at first. You can buy big tubes of sausage meat (less faff) or buy actual sausages and squeeze the sausage meat out (I did this for the sausage rolls… it was icky, lets just leave it at that).

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When it starts to look like mince, its good to go. The sausage meat adds a wonderful flavour, and the texture is sticky and smooth, rather than more obvious like mince would be.

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Pop everything into your baking tray, and back into the oven until its all golden. I also chose to crack a few eggs into it, and bake them. Job done.

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Pretty simple, bar some prep time!

I also made sausage rolls – like I said, this was the less glamorous bake – squeezing raw sausage meat out of the casing isn’t as phallic as you’d think. It’s just gross. But! Good sausages, plus some more rosemary, garlic, and some dried herbs, made for delicious sausage rolls. Homemade is always better.

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We ate at the end of the garden in the shade, with hummus, pitta bread, a bottle of fizz, and a huuuge jug of smoothie that I’d made. Perfect.

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My sweet, lovely parents were in fine form

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We sat and ate and chatted for the best part of the afternoon, before moving onto Eton Mess. Luxury Eton Mess, if you will, made with meringues from the Meringue Girls.

The Meringue Girls are a brilliant pair of ladies who’ve created some seriously delicious treats – regular size, and mini size, in some fantastic flavour combos. I first discovered them when I bought their recipe book on a whim, and their love of colour and their outstanding creativity won me over.

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I got a jar of minis with strawberry, raspberry and coconut, and then a box of the regular size

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Gin & tonic, hazelnut, dark chocolate, passionfruit, and pistachio.

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Everything got thrown into the Eton Mess, which didn’t photograph well, but in our defence we’d had a few drinks at this point, and it tasted delicious, which is what matters.

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Happy birthday me! 🙂

Exploring Bordeaux

Last month, Patrick and I flew off to Bordeaux for a week – a weekend exploring the city, and 5 days in a chateau for the wedding of some friends of ours.

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Usually when we go anywhere, we look for gay bars (for him), and cocktail bars (for me), but this time there was a whole other treat instore – the Bordeaux Wine Festival.

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Stretching 2km along the river, this outdoor festival is a new one to me – you pay 20euro for your own wine glass (in a cute little lanyard-pouch combo, that you hang around your neck) and booklet of coupons and info, and then you make your way down the river, stopping at 13 different tasting stations, each one from a different vineyard in the area.

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The afternoon was a hazy but enjoyable one, with Patrick showing off with his fluent French, my schoolgirl French slowly improving, and maaany different wines drunk. We had our favourites, but I’ll be damned if I can remember now.

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We also explored the city over the course of weekend (navigating like locals by the end of it – admittedly its a small city…).

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La Grosse Cloche (15th century), the second remaining gate of the Medieval walls.

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I loved the French buildings – generally, old French architecture always woos me.

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We made a little friend – this sweetie was so happy, wriggling on a doormat. Simple pleasures.

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A walk through the park near our hotel and near our new-favourite restaurant revealed this pretty statue – a memorial to the children of Gironde who died during the Franco-Prussian war, 1870-1871

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French posters and a shop sign – beautiful Rob Ryan style lettering.

And of course, at the end of the wine festival, we went foraging for food and… more wine.

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All in all, an awesome weekend, before we headed off to the chateau to relax!