30 December 2011

Goodbye 2011 & Hello 2012

What a year 2011 has been.  I started to reflect on some of the highlights and lowlights...as you do with the passing of another year and thought what better way to sum it up than with a word cloud from http://www.wordle.net/


Interestingly icing and mixture seem to come out as my top words from my numerous cake baking recipe posts, I'm also pretty pleased to see ski and powder jumping right out at me as well.  I'm sure lots of other big things have happened from turning the big 3-0, to meeting the most loveliest guy ever, lots of fun times and low times with the horses, peaks and troughs at work to giggles and tears with friends! 

So, what will 2012 hold? Who knows, but one things for sure it's going to be an immense year for the obvious big 'O' reason and fingers crossed I will be part of that - all to be revealed soon....

Anyways, here's wishing you all a fabulous New Year's Eve whatever your plans. Party hard and stay safe kids!  

Country Bumpkin Chic will be back next year with more random posts than ever before. Stay tuned. xoxo

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15 November 2011

Mulled Wine, Mince Pies & Christmas Shopping

Last week I played ‘hostess with the mostest’ to a Fun and Frolics Christmas Shopping evening with online boutique Mollie and Fred, Phoenix Trading and 20 very giddy guests ready to get in the festive mood!

My lounge was taken over with gorgeous homeware, gifts and Christmas decorations from Mollie and Fred. And my kitchen table was adorned with Christmas cards and gift wraps from Phoenix Trading. I was secretly hoping that one of the Wish Original Duck Doorstops would get lost and left behind.


The kitchen was definitely the place to be with everyone huddled round the mulled wine on the stove – I can deffo recommend the Schwartz mulled wine sachets.

Here’s the very simple recipe, which when I was too busy to follow, my lovely guests took into their own hands...

Ingredients:
75cl bottle red wine
200ml (7fl oz) water
4 tbs brown sugar
2 Schwartz Mulled Wine Spice sachets

Method:

Place the wine, water, sugar and Mulled Wine Spice sachets in a large saucepan. Heat to just below boiling point and hold this temperature for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove sachets and serve with orange slices to garnish. Makes approx. 1 litre.

For a warming non-alcoholic alternative, add 2 sachets to 1 litre of cranberry juice, heat as above then remove the sachets and serve garnished with orange slices.

Mince pies were a selection from Morrisons and Marks and Spencers and I must say I preferred the Morrisons slightly cheaper version!!

Anyway mulled wine, mince pies, home shopping and friends – what better way to get into the festive mood!

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08 November 2011

Discovering Ladurée

Last weekend I finally got to experience Ladurée and the most a-mazing macaroons in the world.

Everything from the moment you step into the picture perfect store in Convent Garden, to the macaroon towers, exquisite packaging and ribbon, the sweet buttercream smell, to the rainbow coloured macaroons and the taste.

Taking advice of the sales lady we opted for the caramel with salted butter and chocolate.  Sadly I accidentally squashed the macaroons in my bag as we were saving them for a coffee break so we could fully appreciate their beauty, they were still okay,  my favourite was the caramel flavour which tasted like Werther's Original - divine!


The Ladurée website is full of whimsical character and worth checking out http://www.laduree.fr. I also recommend the The Goddess Experience by Gisèle Scanlon http://www.thegoddessguide.com/ who dedicates a whole chapter to macaroons!  If you like Ladurée  you'll love her book which is jam packed full of fashion, beauty, travel and inspirations from around the world - essential for any worthy goddess!

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01 November 2011

Freeze Festival

Nope, I’m not talking about some brrr cold festi in Iceland, although that would have been jolly nice - but the Relentless Freeze Festival at Battersea Power Station. What an epic weekend! If you’ve no idea what I’m babbling about check it out the website http://www.relentlessfreeze.com/  and read my top moments from Freeze this year! 

Battersea Power Station - great back drop
Here are my Top 10 reasons why I loved Freeze:


1. Shopping – a retail village with everything from skis, ski hats, ski jackets to ski holiday’s – everything you need to get yourself sorted for the winter season ahead. Plus, I picked up a pretty lush Nikita Jacket at a billy bargain price from the Freeze Pro Shop.
Loving my new Flying Saucer jacket by Nikita
2. One Piece - discovering the ultimate lounge wear must have and enjoying trying it on in public?!
Having fun at the One Piece stand
3. War and Piste – meeting the author Alex Thomas bantering about seasons, the first ski company she worked for and who we knew from the mountain... all top secret of course!

The book every newbie seasonnaire should read
4. Ostrich – tried my first Ostrich burger, which at £7.50 was worth every penny!

5. Tuaca – a rather yummy vanilla citrus liqueur which goes down well with coke.
Tuaca Lodge
6. Desperados – no ski winter event is complete without a Desperado, which left me feeling warm and fuzzy.

7. Kangol Bar – discovering some funky tunes and chilling out before the big acts in the Main Tent.

8. The Streets – 'mental' pretty much sums up their last London performance. The crowd were on one in more ways than one and Mike Skinner did not disappoint.

Mike Skinner doing his thing!
9. Big air – well, that’s what the whole festival centres around, big slope, big jump and big air = awesome!
Brave or mad?
10. Good vibes – which is what you get when you mix a load of snow loving bums, some après drinks and good tunes.

Festival rating = 8/10

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28 October 2011

Bake off 6: Halloween Cupcakes

So, today we're getting into the Halloween mood, and with a request to Bring and Bake goodies I thought I'd try my hand at some Halloween Cupcakes... I found a fairly straight forward recipe on the BBC Food website and managed to make them look fairly presentable and pretty tastey!

Halloween Cupcakes
Preparation time - less than 30mins Cooking time - 30mins

Makes 12 in cup cake cases

Ingredients:
  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tbsp milk
For the cream icing:
  • 50g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Light)
  • 25g butter
  • 125g icing sugar - sifted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
For the chocolate icing:
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (Green & Blacks)
Method:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cup cake cases.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl.  Add the sugar and butter and beat the mixture together until well combined - it works even better if you use your hands.
  3. Whisk in the egg and milk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture between the paper case and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until springy to the touch and the skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside on a wire wrack to cool.
  5. For the cream cheese icing I used Philadelphia Light, beat the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl until well combined.  Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla essence.
  6. Spoon the icing on the cupcakes using a teaspoon, leaving a small border around the edge.
  7. For the chocolate icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of water to form a smooth, thick icing.  Tip: if its too runny - add more icing sugar.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a fine nozzle or alternatively spoon the mixture into the corner of a sandwich bag and snip off the corner to form a small hole.
  9. Carefully pipe 2 or 3 circles onto each cupcake with a dot in the middle.  Run a toothpick/cocktail stick from the centre to the edge of the cake through each circle of icing at 2cm intervals to create a cobweb effect.
  10. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the icing to harden or pop in the fridge.
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25 October 2011

Jonty's Cubbing Debut

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Jonty likes to make an entrance and an exit in this case.

It was probably quite a brave idea of mine to take a green 5 year old out cubbing, but when it's on your door step in the village you can't really say no?!

So, bleary eyed at 7.30 after a mini photoshoot with dad outside the house we set off to the Cattistock meet in Bradford Peverell.


Bleary eyed we go on our merry way
8am was the meet or in this case 7.50 as huntsman Will Bryer decided to crack on, which meant we were late... Off we trotted to catch up the small party, however, Jonty decided that going backwards was the new going forwards and the sound of the hunt was all a little bit confusing. 

Cattistock Hunt

After a bit of nannying from the hunt secretary and her horse, some emergency polos he relaxed and enjoyed watching the world go by... Until some of the world went by in a flash which sent him into a little spin..

After some more standing around, nannying from a friend and her well behaved horse, a couple of canters, chatting, log jumping and a good gallop (yes, we now know what 5th gear is!) he settled down. Which was a good note to leave on. However, my exit was quite memorable, as I dismounted to move a fallen gate out of the way, Jonty stood on my foot and decided to hop over the gate, pass me and cantered on his merry way. Thankfully jumping iron bar gates out of the next field weren't on today's agenda!
 
Jonty looking rather pleased with himself
Overall I was pleased with Jonty and I think he's quite pleased with himself.

Until next time...

24 October 2011

Ben Howard in Bournemouth

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Mid October was the turn of Ben Howard at the Old Firestation in Bournemouth. I was over giddy about this gig for a number of reasons. Firstly, finally getting to watch the uber talented Ben Howard showcasing his debut album for Every Kingdom, becoming a student again for one night in Bournemouth’s Student Union, and my first proper gig with the boy.

Sadly, the Old Firestation was jam packed with students – funny that and the gig was a sale out, good for Ben, not so good for me, especially when two plonkers stood in front of us after the warm up act Michael Cassidy. We then had to endure 45 minutes of some jazz music trash, I wouldn’t have minded if it was live or if there was an array of tunes. Oh no, the same song (or so it seemed) was played on a continuous loop. In the end we decided to escape the crush of students and head to for bar, just in time for Ben to start – typical!

Anyhow, once I had got over my mini strop, and remembered I was 30 and not 18, I relaxed and enjoyed the lyrical genius that is Ben Howard. We didn’t have a great view, but with his voice it didn’t really matter. Favourite songs included: The Fear, Keep your head up and The Wolves.

Ben Howard
Gig rating = 3.5* – sadly the students and jazz loop knocked the rating down by 1 star. Hopefully, we’ll get to see Ben again next year at a festi.


16 October 2011

Wombats do Westlands

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When I bought tickets for my friend Helen and I back in the summer to watch the Wombats in Yeovil, I had no idea that it would be one of the hottest days of the year and hottest in October on record, making it for the hottest gig in the world – well in Somerset that night!

We rocked up at the Westlands Leisure Complex fashionably late after a few wrong turns to catch the second support act Morning Parade. Who I must say were pretty darn good, so much so I started to panic that I had downloaded the wrong Wombats album! The crowd in Westlands were already going a bit mental in the mosh pit, I wondered what would they do when the Scouse trio took to stage!

The Wombats didn’t disappoint, playing tune after tune from both their two albums ‘A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation’ and their current album ‘This Morning Glitch’ they put on a stomping performance. Even if you weren’t a hard core Wombats fan you’d still recognise their popular, catchy songs from Moving to New York, Backfire at the Disco off the first album to Tokyo and Last Night I Dreamt from the latest album. The boys finished off the gig with their most popular song Lets Dance to Joy Division, ending probably the hottest gig I’ve ever been to.

The Wombats


Gig rating = 4* – high energy performance, with lots of dance ability and good view of the band. Heat & flying pints of water was the only let down!

08 October 2011

Bake Off 5: Banana Cake

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Now the Great British Bake Off has ended, I don't feel embarrassed to blog my recipes again.

So, here's a really simple one which basically involves using up over ripe bananas!

Ingredients:
  • 4oz butter
  • 6oz sugar (granulated/caster/mix in some demerara)
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large or 3 medium very ripe bananas
Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 180C
  2. Grease a loaf tin
  3. Mash the bananas with a fork
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs in a separate bowl
  5. Mix together the two yellow sludges
  6. Mix in the flour
  7. Scrape into the loaf tin and bake for 40mins then lower the temperature to 150C and cook for a further 30mins.
And voila! I wonder if Mary Berry would approve?

Mmmm, yummy banana cake

And the verdict: Well the boys & me demolished the whole cake at work in one day.

Talking Great British Bake Off, my fave was Holly Bell who's website & recipes I love http://www.recipesfromanormalmum.com/ You can also follow her on Twitter @hollybellmummy

16 September 2011

Xmas Wish List


Yes, I know it’s only autumn and I’m talking about Xmas (99 days & not counting), but this week a fellow blogger/tweeter All About EveB pointed out that in this week’s latest edition of Stylist they tagged the new pheasant green coloured Mulberry Heritage Bayswater bag as ‘Country Bumpkin’ so it would only be right that I add it to my Xmas wish list.  Well, it does have my name on it and if its good enough for Alexa Chung its good enough for Country Bumpkin Chic. Somehow though at £825 I think I’ll be waiting and wishing for a long time before I get my hands on it!


The Minx Effect

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A few months ago I noticed a certificate at my beautician’s featuring Minx Nails and I was a little bit intrigued. Sounds a bit naughty doesn’t it? Alas, it’s all above board.

So what are Minx Nails? Minx is flexible firm nail coatings that are adhered perfectly to natural nails through an infra-red heat lamp. They have no drying time, long lasting (until your nails grow out), smudge free, and pretty cool coming in an array of fashionable colours and designs. There also a big hit with the celebs with everyone from Katy Perry, Blake Lively, Pixie Lott, Beyonce to Jessie J and Lady Gaga joining in on the beauty hype.

Katy Perry showing off her Minx nails
I decided to go for the floral Hippy Chick for Reading Festival on my toe nails, sadly it was welly weather rather than flip flops. However, nearly 4 weeks on and the nails are still going strong.

My Hippy Chick Minx nails

For the Christmas party season I think I might go for a solid gold or silver on my finger nails, but that will depend on the dress... and choosing the perfect party dress is a another dilemma.

05 September 2011

Calling all you surfers (& wannabes!)

Fancy a quick surf trip to Europe now summer is officially over in the UK? Well, look no further than VanTripper for making your trip pain free and fun!



VanTripper was set up in 2010 by Benjamin Burnett and three friends: Johnny, Chrisso and Damo who have combined their passion for the big outdoors and travel by launching Van Tripper and encourage you all to try VanTripping for yourselves.

The VanTripper’s customized VW T4 vans enable you to experience the European Surf Highway from Northern France to Southern Portugal and beyond.


You can hire the SurfTripper or DayTripper which are packed with all your essentials for your trip including a disco ball!


Prices are pretty reasonable ranging from 50 Euros per day during low season (Nov-Apr) up to 80 Euros per day during high season (July & August).

Don’t have your own board? Well, the VanTripping team can book that all for you to ensure you have as much stress free fun as possible.

To find out more check out www.vantripper.com; follow the team on Twitter @vantripper or ‘like’ them on Facebook to keep up with all the news and last minute offers.

And if you need any more persuading to book a surf trip check out this little vid... enough to make you want to pack your bags tonight and sack off the dull British weather right?



26 August 2011

Bake Off 4: Marbled Chocolate Cupcakes

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So the next cake request from my work colleagues was for a marbled chocolate loaf. I actually ended up coming across a recipe for Marbled Chocolate Cupcakes which looked really straight forward to make, so here it is....

Serves 12 in muffin cases

Ingredients:
  • 175g soft margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 55g melted chocolate (I used Green & Blacks Dark Choc)
Method:
  • Put 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan
  • Put the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour & milk in a large bowl & use an electric hand whisk, beat together until smooth. Tip: to stop the flour going up in a white cloud I used my hands to mix the sugar, marg & flour first, before adding the wet ingredients.
  • Divide the mixture between 2 bowls.  Add the melted chocolate (melt for 45 seconds in the microwave) & stir together until well mixed.  Using a teaspoon alternatie the chocolate mixture with the plain mixture, put four teaspoons into each muffin case.
  • Bake the cupcakes in a preheated oven 180C for 20 minutes or until well risen & springy to touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Marbled Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Enjoy with a cuppa tea!

Verdict - yum scrum!

23 August 2011

Bake Off 3: Vanilla Cupcakes

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I couldn't wait to make some cupcakes, always good fun when playing around with icing and food colouring.

Makes 12-16 cupcakes - I ended up making 24 in small cupcake cases from Tescos

Ingredients:

For the sponge:
  • 80g butter
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour (I actually used self raising and it was fine)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 240ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large eggs
For the vanilla frosting:
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 160g butter
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • Food colouring
  • Sprinkles
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line muffin tin with muffin cases.
  2. Using a hand held electric whisk slowly beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until the ingredients are well mixed and resemble fine breadcrumbs.  Be careful - the flour does go everywhere!!
  3. Mix together the milk, vanilla essence and eggs by hand in a jug. With the whisk on a low speed, pour 3/4 of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated.  Add the rest of the milk mixture and beat again on a medium speed until the batter is smooth.
  4. Spoon the batter into the muffin cases, up to about 2/3 full. Pop in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the sponges feel springy when you touch them.  Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Vanilla cupcake sponges cooling on the wired rack
  6. To make the frosting, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed using the electric whisk until fully combined and sandy in consistency.  Add the vanilla essence to the milk and pour into the butter and icing sugar while still mixing on a low speed, then increase the speed to high and whisk the frosting until light and fluffy.
  7. If you wish to colour the icing divide into separate bowls and add a teaspoon of the food colouring.  I tried yellow, blue and green (mixing both blue & yellow), I ended up with daffodil yellow, smurf and pea green, I also left a few natural butter cream.
  8. Once the cupcakes are cool, add the frosting, smoothing and swirling with a palette knife (I only had a standard knife, but seemed to do the job). Decorate with coloured or chocolate sprinkles & enjoy!

Pea green and daffodil yellow
Smurf blue & pea green

Plain butter cream
The vanilla cupcakes took a good 90 minutes from start to finish as there is quite a bit of clearing up when playing around with the food colourings.

The verdict - the cute cupcakes seemed to get the thumbs up from both work colleagues and my parents.  The only issue is transporting iced cup cakes...the icing did end up on the seat of my car when taking over a batch to my folks.

So, what next?  I've been challenged to bake a marbled cake, which isn't in the Cake Days book - eek.... Watch this space to see what I'll be serving up next.

20 August 2011

One week & counting....

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This time next week I will be at Reading Festival and I’m just a tad excited!

There’s a number of reasons why I’m excited:

1) The line up: The Strokes, Pulp, Two Door Cinema Club, Bombay Bicycle Club and new band I’ve been listening to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero;

2) I’m going with my best friend (aah!) Rachel, it’s our 30th birthday present to one and other and

3) We’re going on a day ticket so we don’t have to worry about slumming or glamping it, although I do have a new pair of violet Hunter wellies that I will be proudly showing off if its pi**ing down!

The line up - eek!
I’ll update you post festi…and in the meantime, just because I can and if you didn’t quite catch it – this time next week I’ll be at Reading!!!

HO Lungeing Aid aka 'marmite aid'

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My mum read about the HO Lungeing Aid in Horse and Hound back in July, and being a sucker for all things new insisted that we tried it out!

We ordered ours from Sydney Free Saddlery for £24.95 and after a weeks wait it finally arrived. Rather than purchasing the sheepskin, we had an old curb sheepskin which we thread the two pieces of rope through.

Sydney Free Saddlery says: “This is probably one of the simplest aids we have seen, and is extremely popular. It helps the horse to relax and use his back while on the lunge, therefore helping to build up the topline and work through his entire body.”

Barley modelling the HO Lunge Aid
It’s also being promoted on Horse Hero by Laura Bechtolsheimer and her father.
Dr Wifried Bechtolsheimer says:

“This is a very useful tool for young horses as well as for fully trained older horses. For young horses, especially in combination with a cavesson, it encourages the still excitable and unbalanced horse to drop his head to a comfortable level. This has various beneficial effects. Taking the head down will help to calm the horse very quickly. (You will never see an excited or panicky horse trot or canter very far with the head down.) The horse can use its neck to find its balance and therefore will find it easier to produce a natural and regular rhythm. In other words, you will find out that the horse tends to run less but will start going with a swinging back much sooner. Whereas, if you use side reins, the horse is restricted and will feel so continually."


He continues, "the lungeing rope is easy to handle but there are a few important things to remember:

o Check you have equal length of rope on both sides before each lungeing session.
o The length of the rope should allow the horse to stretch out without restriction, but should not be too long so that it can slide too far back on his back or that he could tread on it.
o Never have the rope so tight that the horse is forced to take the head down. This could result in severe injury. If the horse feels too restricted it might try to throw the head up and fall over backwards or the rope might rub under the upper arm of the front legs.”

Side profile of HO Lungeing Aid on Barley
So how did we get on?

We tried it out on Jonty the 5 year old Irish Sport Horse to start with. We’ve had him over a year now and really only in the last few months he’s started going to shows and concentrating on his flat work. He took to it like a duck to water and within minutes was stretching down like Dr B states and swinging along looking quite pleased with himself. In fact he was so relaxed that at one point he tried to reach down for grass whilst in trot, which leads on to a point that you have to be so careful that the horse doesn’t get tangled up. We’ve tried it twice and ridden afterwards in our field on the flat and jumping and seen a vast improvement in the way he moves and his behaviour.

Jonty swinging along
Then we tried it on Barley the 8 year old Irish Sport horse, and it was a very different story. Immediately we noticed in walk he was tense and was arching his back, we proceeded to trot him and he raised his head which made the aid go tight and he panicked backing up towards the hedge line. Calmly we put him into trot and 5 minutes later he still hadn’t relaxed and was very tense and again panicked raising his head which made the rope tighten round his girth. We quietly trotted him on the other rein but knew that this wasn’t for Barley.
 And that’s why we’re calling this the ‘marmite aid’ as some horses love it and some don’t. It could be put down to the fact that Jonty is only 5 and doesn’t really know anything else, whereas Barley is a little more wiser.
Barley in trot - ears slightly twitchy



Let me know if you have any feedback on how you found the HO Lungeing Aid.

16 August 2011

It's Show Time!


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For those who know me well, you don’t often see me for gold dust over the summer months as I’m usually out riding one of my cheeky Irish horses Barley and Jonty after work or at a show at the weekend somewhere in the West Country trying to win a rosette. And for anyone who said it’s the taking part that counts – they’re lying!!


The next 3 weeks are no exception to the rule and for me one of the most exciting times of the year as we have 3 spectacular agricultural shows taking place in our fair county of Dorset.


For those of you who aren’t sure what an agricultural show is, check out this link on Wikipedia  and next time I’m babbling on about a county show you won’t look at me as if I’m talking in double dutch. This line sums it up perfectly ‘Agricultural shows are an important part of cultural life in small country towns’.


Tomorrow kicks off at Gillingham and Shaftesbury (Wednesday 17th August) which is probably the most laid back / rural of the three shows. There’s over 280 traditional livestock events at the Turnpike Showground from horses, cattle, to sheep and has been going strong for over 150 years. So who are you likely to spot down there? North Dorset ladies that 'do' lunch, cider lovers, some of the West Country’s top show jumpers and a few tourists who stumble across the show advertised in the Blackmore Sparkford Mag. We’ll be down there taking part in the Open Working Hunter on Barley as a warm up for Melplash Show…fingers crossed he’ll behave himself after his tantrum practice last night.

Next week is Melplash Show (Thursday 25th August) which again has been going for donkey’s of years – 162 to be precise. I’ve got fond memories of Melplash riding my Welsh Section B 13H pony Music Master in the show pony classes and jumping my horse Wizard as a 17 year old in the main ring, sadly he was a typical Warmblood horse and napped at the strawbales getting us eliminated. So who are you likely to spot at Melplash? Holiday makers making the most of the West Country before the kids go back to school, locals enjoying the cider tent and riders trying to make a last attempt to qualify for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). Barley and I will be one of those making our first and last attempt at qualifying for HOYS this year in the main ring – let’s hope I have more luck then I did with Wizard.

Last but not least is the Dorset Show (Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September) which was probably the first show I ever went to as a baby. Dorset Show used to be a one day show back in the day, but now is a full on jam packed event with something for everyone from the kids to nana and isn’t just about the livestock, but all round good entertainment. So who are you likely to spot at the Dorset Show? A lot of the local Dorch townies, the BSJA crowd ponc-ing it up in the collection ring, Young Farmers, Tweed crowd and genuine country bumpkins... This time its Jonty’s turn, could be interesting as this will be the biggest show he’s been to, so he’ll either thrive on it or have a few tantrums, I’m thinking it will be the latter!


13 August 2011

Everyone loves a sample sale

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Just those two little words 'sample sale' get me jumping up and down with excitement.  Next week my lovely friend from Mollie & Fred is joing up with The Edge Accessories for a sample sale.  There's up to 75% off and I can't wait, I've got my eye on some Hummingbird Bakery notelets... I'll keep you posted on my purchases.

12 August 2011

Happy 30th Skiworld

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I shrieked with giddy excitement when my Skiworld brochure landed on my door mat this week. Sad I know, but it means that the countdown til the 2012 ski season is on. 5 and half-ish months – not that I’m counting! Half the fun is the build up to the next ski holiday. Where are we going , who’s going, what fancy dress theme shall we do, who’s sharing with who, what will our chalet hosts be like – can they really be better than Abi and Jack from Mottaret or Ben and Sophie from Tignes?


Tignes Spirit in Chalet Tichot


I was also pretty impressed that Skiworld is 30 next year, something we both have in common, but for a ski company a real milestone. I’ve got many good memories from Skiworld holidays. 21 was the first time I experienced a chalet holiday with my family and my best friend’s family in Meribel– so many good memories thanks to Skiworld: ski guiding over to VT, being carried out of a karaoke bar by our hot rep, our jack the lad chalet host. It was because of this memorable holiday that I decided to rep the next season, sadly I left it too late for Skiworld but ended up with another big tour operator and made some fabulous friends – who funny enough we now go on holiday with Skiworld rather than the operator we repped for!! We’ve had some fun times in Tignes and Motterat and I'm looking forward to more good times in 2012 with my ski fwends and chalet hosts.

Ski fwends in Down Town Meribel
See ski holidays for me aren’t just about the skiing – yes, that’s great and I love pushing myself down a gnarly black (usually if I know there’s a good après bar at the bottom), I’m a little fair weather and went its poor viz I will be first or second to suggest ‘who’s up for a sauna or Desparado?'. For me, it’s everything from the chalet – afternoon tea and cake, the roaring fire, banter with the chalet hosts, working out what we’re actually eating, dissing the chalet wine (take note Skiworld – please give the chalet hosts more money for better tasting wine ), to the après bar, trying to find WIFI (very happy that Skiworld now has this in every chalet – big thumbs up!), pub quiz, fancy dress night, downing far too many toffee vodkas – and still being the first group out the door the next morning and of course my ski fwends who make it the best 7 days of the year!

So, Happy Birthday Skiworld and I’ll see you in 2012 for joint 30th celebrations!

11 August 2011

Bake Off 2: Blueberry Crumble Loaf

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Hmmm, I seem to be falling behind on my recipe a week challenge. Country Bumpkin Chic is a busy bee at the moment trying to fit in work, horsey comps, keeping up a social reputation and fitting in the odd date here and there!

Anyway, I ended up getting up extra early on Tuesday (6.15am!!!) to try and bake before work, which all went according to plan until the cooling process where I ran out of time. 

I’ve made a slight adaption to the original recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery which included pecan nuts in the sponge and crumble, here’s by twist on the recipe.

Blueberry Crumble Loaf

Straight out of the oven

Serves 8-10
Loaf tin: 8.5 x 17.5cm with 7.5cm sides

Ingredients:

For the Sponge:
  • 190g unsalted butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spices or cinnamon
  • 25ml milk
  • 100g fresh or frozen blueberries (I actually included 200g and it made it extra moist and yummy)
For the Crumble Topping: 
  • 25g plain flour 
  • 10g unsalted butter
  • 15g soft light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon mixed spices or cinnamon
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, then grease the load tin with butter and dust with flour or as I did use grease proof paper – makes it hassle free to remove after cooling.
  2. First make the crumble topping. In a bowl, rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the remaining ingredients and set aside. (I actually mixed all the ingredients together and it worked ok).
  3. Next make the sponge. Using a hand held electric whisk cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (Note: go slowly; otherwise the sugar will be decorating your kitchen!) Break the eggs one at a time, mixing, well, on a medium speed, after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure every bit of the mixture is used.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and mixed spices/cinnamon, then add in three stages to the creamed butter and eggs, pouring in the milk after the second batch has been added. (Note: if you add it altogether in one go it still works!) Mix well on a medium speed after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl once again to make sure all the ingredients are put to good use.
  5. Increase the speed to medium to high and continue mixing until the batter is smooth and even, then add the blueberries stirring them into the batter by hand and making sure they are evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared load tin and sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top.
  6. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the sponge feels firm and a skewer inserted comes out clean with no cake batter sticking to it. Allow the loaf to cool before turning it out on to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into slices and serve with a nice cuppa tea!
Hmmm... tastes nicer than it looks
Anyway as they say in the Guinness advert, good things come to those who wait – and the Blueberry Crumble Loaf got the seal of approval from my male taste testers: 3 work colleagues (extra IT credit points in the bank for me), my dad and a mystery man.

04 August 2011

Bake Off 1: Lemon & Thyme Loaf

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My first Country Bumpkin Bakes Challenge from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.

Serves 8-10
Loaf tin: 8.5 x 17.5cm with 7.5cm sides

Ingredients:

For the sponge
• 190g unsalted butter
• 190g plain flour
• Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
• 3 teaspoons of finely chopped lemon thyme leaves
• 190g caster sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 25ml soured cream


For the soaking syrup
• 40g cater sugar
• Zest and juice of 1 lemon

• 2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs to decorate

Method:


1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, then grease the load tin with butter and dust with flour.


2. Using a hand held electric whisk or mixer with paddle attachment slowly beat together the butter, lemon zest, thyme leaves and sugar to bring the ingredients together, then whisk on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Break the eggs into the bowl one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.


3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add to the creamed butter and egg mixture in two batches and mix together lightly. Add the soured cream and then pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.


4. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the sponge is firm to touch / skewer comes out clean.


5. While the loaf is cooking you can make the syrup. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan along with 40ml of water. (remember to do this – as I forgot!!). Bring this to the boil, allowing it to reduce by about half, then pour over the cooked load as soon as it come out of the oven.


6. After adding the syrup allow the loaf to cool a little in the tin before removing. Decorate with a couple of sprigs of lemon thyme and enjoy with a cuppa tea!


Well overall the baking went pretty smoothly, although I seemed to totally miss adding the water to the syrup, but that might be due to baking at 8am on a Sunday morning – yes I am mad!

The proof in the pudding is when you ask your family or friends to try it out.

The verdict = my mum thought it was my best cake yet, and she’s tasted a few of my cakes over the years and work colleagues –well they went silent and disappeared before you could say ‘lemon and thyme’.

So what to bake next??

03 August 2011

Country Bumpkin Chic Bakes Challenge

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I do like a challenge, but for me though half the time the challenge is sticking to it!

My lovely friend Helen aka Wild Walks bought me The Hummingbird Bakery cook book Cake Days for my birthday. Being the random creative type I am I was more in amazement with the look and feel of the book than the actual content! If you’ve ever seen it – you’ll get what I mean.


Inside, it has the most amazing recipes for cakes from mojito mini cupcakes, chocolate Guinness cake to butterscotch marshmellow bars. To find out more check out their website, they have 4 stores in London and have even launched an app!

So, what is the challenge – to bake one of The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipes each week and share them with my family and friends. There are about 100 in all...so it could take a while to get through if I stick the challenge, but I’m sure there will be lots of willing volunteers on the way.
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