28 November 2015

Introducing Jaralicious...


On Country Bumpkin Chic we love hearing from local West Country businesses especially new start-ups. I was even more delighted when my friend Fi excitedly told me over dinner about her plans for launching Jaralicious this festive period and was more than happy to taste test her goods and interview her for the blog.
Fi (right) & I celebrating at her brother Tom’s wedding in the US.

Jaralicious founder Fi Thatcher is a 31 year old bubbly and vivacious West Country girl from Salisbury. When she’s not taking part in the local Salisbury parkrun or planning her next ski trip you’ll find her busy baking and trying out new recipes for Jaralicious.

Fi tell us about Jaralicious…

It’s basically baking made easy. A jar with all the ingredients needed for baking cakes. All you need to add is butter, eggs and milk and follow the simple instructions.

The idea originated from a Christmas holiday, when my brother and his wife gave me a glass jar with a cake mix and I thought that’s such a cute idea. Last year I was struggling for Christmas gift ideas and decided to try out the cake mix in a jar and it went down a treat and Jaralicious was born.



Who’s Jaralicious aimed at?

Anyone who likes baking! It’s suitable for all ages and baking abilities. I have a few mummy friends who have said how much fun their kids enjoyed baking with Jaralicious and saved them a trip to the supermarket.


What’s the Jaralicious range?

Chocolate Brownie (1 litre jar – makes about 16 slices) Everyone’s favourite. Includes, milk, white choc chips and walnuts. For those with nut allergies we can swap the walnuts for extra choc chips. All three mixed together go down a right treat.

Gingerbread Biscuits (1/2 litre jar – makes about 24) Delicious crunchy biscuits that go down well with a cuppa or two. I use crystallised ginger to give the biscuits an extra kick of ginger.

Christmas Muffins (1 litre jar – makes about 12) – cinnamon and mixed spice flavours – a taste of Christmas in a muffin. Again we use walnuts/pecans but can replace them with fruit or raisin.

Triple Chocolate Muffins (1/2 or 1 litre jar – makes 6 or 12 muffins) For those who love chocolate, you’re in for a real treat! Contains 3 layers of choc chips. Nuts can be added as a replacement for one of the choc chip layers.

*** Country Bumpkin Chic road tested the Triple Choc Muffins – look out for the next blog post on how we got on***

Other recipes include: Oatylicious Cookies for those looking for something a bit healthier or Chocolate Chip Cookies for the chocolate lovers.


What’s your favourite recipe?

Ooh that’s a tough one. It’s got to be the Chocolate Brownie mix, especially if it’s still warm as it’s gooey in the middle.


Who do you practice your recipes on?

Anyone who wants to try them. I’ve taken samples to work, given them to my mum for her work place and haven’t had any complaints yet!

How can people buy Jaralicious?

Online through my Facebook page ‘Jaralicious’ or email Fi at jaralicious@outlook.com

1 large Jaralicious = £9.99 or 2 for £18.50
2 small Jaralicious’ = £6.99 or 2 for £12.50
1 small & 1 large Jaralicious= £15.50


Will you be attending any Christmas Events?

Yes, I’m attending a couple of Christmas Fairs – the first one is at the Goldolphin School this Saturday 28th November, then onto The Stones Hotel Christmas Fair on Sunday 29th November and Durrington Junior School – Friday 4th December

What’s the future for Jaralicious?

At the moment its a little side line business, however, I’d love to be able to open a little cake shop and expand my baking business.

Follow Jaralicious on Facebook 

08 November 2015

Butternut Squash Soup

Autumn is definitely a time for embracing the change in temperatures, spending more time in the kitchen and getting your cook on. Inspired by lots of pumpkin posts over Halloween I decided to make the most of that other well known winter squash vegetable and make butternut squash soup.

I found an easy to follow and delicious recipe on Mary Berry's website here, which involved roasting the butternut to add more flavour - good old Mary!

Ingredients:
Ingredients
 
  • 3 small butternut squash - approx. 1.6kg in total weight
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (I didn't have this to hand & it still tasted lush)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 large sticks of celery chopped
  • 1" root ginger grated (again I left this out)
  • 2 pints of vegetable or chicken stock (I used a cube of each)
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary (I used some mixed herbs)

Instructions
Serves 6
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon and discard. Arrange the squash halves cut side up in a roasting tin or tray large enough to hold the squash. Drizzle over the olive oil. Season each squash half with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Pour 150ml (1/4 pint) of water around the squash. Cook in the pre-heated oven for about 1 hour 1/4. Basting occasionally until the squash is tender. I turned the squash over every half hour. Allow to cool.
    I used two baking trays to fit the squash
  3.  Melt the butter in a large pan and add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and grated ginger. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the veg begins to soften. Add the stock, rosemary and seasoning, bring to the boil then partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
    Chopped veg for the pan
  4. When cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the squash and add to the pan. Blend the vegetables using a food processor or liquidiser until smooth.
    Liquidised butternut squash soup
  5. Taste for seasoning and serve hot with crusty bread. I've made enough batches for a few dinners and lunches. Simples!
    And voila!

04 October 2015

Sloe Gin Recipe - Christmas Treats


Sloes!
 

Autumn in the UK has been pretty beaut so far and perfect for foraging the hedgerows. If you hadn’t noticed, we’ve had a bumper crop of sloes. Which means one thing - Christmas sloe gin!

I’ve been procrastinating about making sloe gin for about the last 5 years, this year I’m determined to make amends. Over Bank Holiday I bought the 8 piece Kilner Sloe Gin kit off eBay for £19,99 from Get Goods. It usually retails at £25, a total bargain as it contains:x1 2 litre round Kilner glass jar, x4 250ml sloe gin bottles, x1 50 x 50cm muslin cloth, x1 plastic funnel & a recipe card.
 
Kilner Sloe Gin Kit

Next was the fun part – picking sloes. They grow on blackthorn bushes at the edge of fields. Harvest time is around the end of September to November, although this year they were ready at the end of August. Just in time for making Christmas gifts!

The bush usually grows 3-13 ft tall and the sloe berries are clustered together. They’re about 1-2cm wide and dark purple/blue in colour. When they’re ripe to pick they have a bit of a squidge. You can test a few on the bush to know that the rest are okay to pick. Below are a few piccies of what to look out for. These are taken from a hedgerow in south Dorset. If you're interested in knowing some good spots, send me a message and I'll share my spot!!

Blackthorn Bushes
 
What do you need?

To fill the 2 litre Kilner jar which will make approximately 1 litre of sloe gin you’ll need:

·         700ml Gin (I use Gordon’s)

·         800g of sloe berries – approximately 400 berries

·         280g granulated sugar

How to make sloe gin:

1. Wash the sloe berries getting rid of the stalks and any creepy crawlies you might have picked up along the way.
Wash & De-Stalk or Insect the Sloes
 
2. Take a pin or needle and prick each berry. This helps to release the juices and flavours.

3.I then dried the sloes and popped them in the freezer for the week. For a few reasons. 1) I needed to pick more sloes and 2) Old wives tale – that if we haven’t experienced a frost in the UK, it helps to imitate the frost and crack the berry to help release the juices. You probably don’t need to prick and freeze – but I got carried away with the process and did both.
 
Pop in the Freezer
 
4. When you’re ready to make the sloe gin, defrost the berries overnight.

5. Add the berries to the Kilner jar and add the gin and sugar and store in a dark dry place.
 
 
Add the Sloe Berries to the Kilner Jar
Add 280g of Granulated Sugar to the Kilner Jar
Add the Gin to the Kilner Jar
Sloe Gin Mixture ready for Brewing
 
6. Tip the jar upside down and gently share every couple of days this allows all the ingredients to agitate together and enriches the flavour. I topped up the jar with a couple 100mls of gin – you might as well make the most of it!

7. Leave the mixture for a least 3 months – just in time for Christmas!
 
Now I haven’t done the next steps as I’m still waiting…. But hopefully it will all go to plan!

8. Strain the liquid using the muslin cloth and decant into the individual sloe gin bottles.

Apparently the longer you leave it the better the taste! Somehow, I don’t think there will be any left.

Does anyone else have any good foraging recipes for making tipples they fancy sharing?

31 August 2015

A Month in Photos // August

Sometimes I wish you could just jump inside a time machine and travel back to the beginning of the summer and re-live it all over again. With some added sunshine! Wouldn't that be lovely?

August has flown by in Dorset, like I'm sure it has everywhere else.

Anyhow, here are some of my August highlights captured on my trusty iPhone 6. I'm still determined to stop procrastinating and get my pro camera out soon. Autumn will be perfect for capturing the changing seasons, right?!

 
 
I popped up twice to this event. First time to buy some yummy goodies for lunch. I picked up a pasty and some scrumptious cakes from Eat Dark Matters. In the evening Dan & I cycled from Charminster via the Borough Gardens One World Festival and then back up to the Dorset Food & Arts Festival we enjoyed a lovely cider from Hall & Woodhouse who were promoting the still to be built pub. From the plans it looks mega. I'm so excited for this new pub to open in spring 2016. And who knew they produced a bottled cider? Pear and Apple Wood. We enjoyed a cider as the sunset watching brother & sister duo Charlotte & George Hewett.
 
2. Jonty & that field...
 
There's some irony in this photo. A few weeks ago, the horses were cooped up in their stables as we waited & waited for the farmer to take the hay off their meadow field. Which in turn caused some very frustrated & frisky horses on their rides, which was a good excuse for them to play up. Young Jonty decided he didn't want to go through the gateway to the field pictured as there was a tractor on the other side of the hedge which was very scary. Yes, it really was. So, I jumped off to walk through the gateway & as soon as I walked through Jonty decided to pull the reins out of my hands and shot off across the field. I calmly thought that he'll stop in a moment & then he disappeared out of sight! I started to run across the field of crops and spotted Jonty trotting on down the field near the woods. Thankfully he stopped to graze and I managed to catch him & on we went.
 
Little did I know until later that day & this week how much talk Jonty has caused. The farmer of the tractor spotted Jonty rider less, put 2 & 2 together & thought I'd fallen off! My parents had the police turn up to check I was okay, about 3 villagers the following week checked we were alright & I found out at Melplash Show that a horsey friend 2 miles up the track was out on her quad bikes looking for Jonty & me.
 
So, this photo is post that eventful Saturday morning during and evening ride. It looks pretty blissful with Jonty gazing out across the freshly cut field, with the combines hard at work. He didn't take a blind bit of notice & we had a jolly ride in the evening sunshine. Horses!
 
3. Portland Light House
 
The other weekend was a wet one, so Dan & I decided to go on a quick adventure walking around Portland bill before the storms came in. I haven't been in yonks. You always notice something different each time around Portland.
 
When we left the island we popped into Billy Winters for a beer a shabby chic style cafĂ© based on Ferrybridge serving fresh fish, cocktails with a chilled out vibe.
 
4. #GSBO - The Great Studio Bake Off
 
With the return of the Great British Bake Off this month, talk at work turned to cake and somehow we decided to have a Great Studio Bake Off #gsbo
 
I decided to make my traditional raspberry, strawberry & white choc muffins which is based on this recipe I merchandised mine on my gorgeous cake stand from Gemma at  Rosie Lee by the Sea
 
Sadly, I wasn't a winner, but all my muffins were eaten - so I take that as a good sign!
 
Congrats to Lloyd who won with his very yummy Rocky Road cakes!
 
5. Ultimate Fitness
 
My friend Claire Tuck, a Dorchester based personal trainer and sports masseuse had a launch event for the opening of her new venture - Ultimate Fitness. Based just outside Dorchester on the Jonson Trading Park, Alington Avenue. The main classes will include Bootcamp using the fab outdoor facilities - think Tough Mudder but even better, Strength & Conditioning & Personal Training Groups.
 
I can't wait for the evenings to start getting darker so I can switch from riding after work to working out.
 
6. Alfie's first puppy party
 
Mum & I took Alfie to a puppy meet & greet at our local vets. There were 4 pups in total: a quiet collie, a labradoodle, a boisterous retriever & Alfie a Sporting Lucas Terrier cross.
 
He was a very well behaved pup & loved meeting new puppies. He's starting to get stronger and a lot more active. Definitely time for some longer walks.
 
Oh, and it was National Dog Day on 26th August, so here's an ode to Alfie, not that he needs anymore admirers, but he's very cute.
 
7. Melplash Show
 
One of my favourite agricultural shows of the year. We were taking part in the very early Local Hunter Class. Sadly, it was too early for the judge and she seemed to not take any notice of Jonty, so no rosettes for us this year.
 
As we were finished by 9am we decided to have a walk round the show and sample the agricultural delights. This photo captures a funny yet almost carnage moment, when the geese who were being prepped for a display escaped from their pen into the main ring where the working hunter class was taking place.
 
8. Saving Grace
 
I finally finished a book!! It's only taken me nearly 3 months to complete. The satisfaction of reaching that final chapter was great & it was actually a pretty decent book by Jane Green, so much so I wrote a book review.
 
9. Bank Holiday Beers & Biking
 
After getting the biking buzz in Jersey, Dan & I loaded the van up with the bikes & headed over to Wareham to cycle round the Purbecks. We covered about 15ish miles whizzing around the cycle network taking in the sights, including Corfe Castle which you can just about spot in the distance. More about beers & biking in my next blog....
 
And that's it for August. It was pretty jam packed. Roll on September & an Indian summer!!
 
What did you guys get up to in August? Any delights from the west country you'd like to share?
 
PS. If you have any feedback on the Country Bumpkin Chic blog posts, I'd love to hear what you think. You can either leave a comment below or via my 'get social' links.
 

Album Review: First Aid Kit - Stay Gold




Swedish sisters doing it for themselves

Sister act Klara and Johanna Soderberg’s third album Stay Gold, sets out to be their finest American style country album to date. The 20 year old sisters have come a long way since their You Tube cover of Fleet Foxes – Tiger Mount Peasant which shot them to fame in their teens.

The Soderberg’s remain romantic and heart-felt despite lyrics about fighting the good fight. The 70s tinged folk rock sound thrives on their soaring vocals, warm harmonies and big choruses making it a beautiful, honest and tender album. 

Since their earlier album The Lion’s Road, the two young sister’s voices have matured and are richer and rounder before, although their lyrics have taken a change in direction.

Opening track My Silver Lining has the Tennessee swing of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Conjuring up images of lying in a sunny meadow somewhere in Nashville or even Stockholm listening to the lush harmonies. Cedar Lane has a hint of motel blues featuring a subtle guitar. The music is not all country-by-numbers. Master Pretender is embellished with a haunting clarinet, while The Bell’s melody is intertwined with a gorgeous flute refrain. Stay Gold references a Robert Frost poem that asserts “nothing gold can stay”.

Still in their early 20s, Johanna and Klara sing through fresh vocals, but their lyrics often feel old and world-weary. “My life is a setting sun,” they proclaim in Fleeting One. There is a feeling that the lyrics strive too hard to be American aiming to break into the big time. Especially when Johanna sings in Waitress Song that she could “move to a small town and become a waitress, and say my name was Stacey”, you rather wish she wouldn’t.

Ultimately, it’s their sisterly harmonies not their lyrical content that makes First Aid Kit work and the reasoning behind why so many people fall in love with them. For as lonely and as longing as their words and tunes get, Johanna and Klara still have each other.

The road the beautiful Swedish sisters have taken for their third album unites traditional country, soft indie rock, ‘70s folk, with baroque pop they’ve indeed blossomed into an excellent singer-songwriter duo. May that gold never tarnish.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Download today: My Silver Lining, Master Pretender, Fleeting One and Waitress Song.

www.thisisfirstaidkit.com


For those who don't know I'm currently enrolled on a Freelance Writing course at the London School of Journalism specialising in the music and arts. There are 15 assignments in total which vary from critiquing journalism, commentating on how we'd carry out a process through to writing our own features and reviews. Hence, for my album review on First Aid Kit's Stay Gold which actually came out last year, but is an album I play a lot on Spotify, so thought why not review it!

I hope you enjoyed it. I would love to know what you think or if anyone has any pearls of wisdom for my writing course. 10 down and 5 to go. I aiming to finish the course by Christmas!

28 August 2015

Book Review: Saving Grace by Jane Green


I started Saving Grace back in June on my summer holiday in Greece as my second sun lounging book, but like most people I returned to the daily hum drum and the book sat on my bedside table collecting dust for weeks. Until I decided I was going to put down my iPhone, stop re-freshing the Facebook newsfeed, turn off the TV and start reading again. I forgotten how much I love reading, to have a few minutes of me time and switch off from everyday life escaping into someone else’s world is pretty blissful.

The world I escaped into was Grace Chapman an English woman in America married to well-known writer Ted Chapman. It starts with Ted needing a new assistant and in walks Beth who is not what everyone seems. She’s far too perfect and things start falling apart for Grace. The story takes her back to England to escape to Dorset with her old university friend’s mother Lydia and stay in Sherborne. For those who know me, I went to school just outside Sherborne at Leweston, so the references to Sherborne feel like home. Anyhow, Grace heads back to the US to sort things out with Ted and get to the bottom of Beth’s behaviour. Where she ends up… well, I’ll let you read the book to find out what happens.

Not only is Saving Grace a laid back chick lit read, most chapters have a recipe to the food that Grace whips up in the book and skimming through them, they all seem pretty straightforward to bake/cook.

Anyone else read Saving Grace or any other books by Jane Green? What did you think?

I’ve just ordered my next batch of books courtesy of my Tesco Boost points and look forward to receiving: Lindsey Kelk’s – Always the Bridesmaid, Sophie Kinsella’s - Shopaholic to the Stars and Caitlin Moran’s – How to Build a Girl. Plus I bought one of Mary Berry’s books. Anyone read any of these? What did you think?

26 August 2015

Happy National Dog Day!


If you haven't been on social media today, then it might have totally gone over your head that today was National Dog Day. A day dedicated to celebrating our beloved four legged friends. Although every day is a special doggy day, and in my parents house there is one young man seeking lots of attention - Alfie!

Last November, we sadly said goodbye to Gilly a 16 year old Jack Russell who we'd taken care of after my nan passed away 7 years ago. We never thought she'd live to that great old age, but after coming to live with us in the countryside, she had a new lease of life and came to all our horsey parties. Everyone loved her, even my non-animal loving dad did.

It left a great hole in the family when she went and took some time before we decided we were ready for another 4-legged friend. My mum had seen a breed of dog which our landlady at the local pub owned along with a few people in the village - Sporting Lucas Terrier.

After some enquiries we put word out that we were on the look out for a pup. It took a while, but eventually there were 2 little boy pups born in a nearby village by the main breeder in the area. To start with we were sent a photo and then when the pups were about a month old we paid them a little visit and fell in love straight away with Paddy - now known as Alfie Wren! The rest is history, and now we have a 4 1/2 month old cheeky pup.

Here's Alfie's cutest pics. Warning: you're going to fall in love with that cute face, but don't be fooled he loves shoes and ankles!!

1. 4 weeks old. Alfie (formerly Paddy) on the left & his brother Linus on the right. Awww.
2. 6 weeks old. Cuddles with his mummy Anne 'The boss lady'
3. 6 weeks old. Linus (left) & Alfie (right) - their personalities are starting to come out.
 4. 8 weeks old. First day in his new home.
5. 8 weeks old. Little Alfie in his new play area.
6. Alfie's first horse show with Barley.
7. About 10 weeks old. Alfie and his new best friend, the Mollie & Fred doggy door stop!
 8. Playing hide & seek! We can still see  you Alfie!
 9. 3 months old. This is how Alfie greets me on a daily basis. Its always good to feel appreciated.
10. Oh, hey there Alfie!
11. Yes, I know you're there trying to get my attention during dinner look.
 12. 4 months old. Puppy party was all too much for Alfie.
 13. 4 1/2 months old. Alfie the carrot thief!
14. My shadow thought he'd help keep me company with the tack cleaning & brought his door stop along too?!
15. 2 minutes in the door and he'll have your shoes. But how can you get cross with a face like that?!

And that is Alfie the puppy. A real cutie with lots of personality. We shouldn't celebrate National Dog Day just on one day, but every day. Dogs are truly amazing. I've known such a small bundle of white/grey/dirty fluff to give so much joy and happiness. He will definitely be going to puppy class soon before he starts ruling the roost!

Have you got any cute pics of your dogs of puppies? I would love to see them.

Surviving Reading & Leeds Festival

As a blogger with a number of years blogging under my belt, I’m often sent some rather interesting PR material to feature on my blog. And until today, I’ve not featured any material that's landed in my Hotmail in box – until this funky little infographic dropped down from Smart Buy Glasses about how to survive Reading & Leeds Festival.

It resonated with me on a number of levels. In my day job I oversee a creative bunch of graphic designers and I’ve learnt to appreciate an infographic or two. And secondly the last time I went to Reading festival was in 2011, which brings back some good memories.

Check out the infographic below. Number 6 made me chuckle. You definitely see a lot of drunken twats at Reading festival.



And here are some of my top tips for surviving Reading & Leeds in photos from 2011 when I went on a day ticket with my best friend Rachel who was about 4-5 months pregnant with her first child Jack and her friend Sarah.
1. Remember your ticket!
It's a long way home otherwise.
 
 2. Boys remember your check shirt!

3. Girls remember your Hunter wellies, waterproof jacket, over the shoulder bags, dress & funky print tights, oh and a straw hat even if it is raining?!
 
 4. Invest in a picnic chair, they're about a tenner at Reading or bring your own from home. It will save your legs and having to sit in the mud.
Oh and smile for obligatory 'there is sunshine' festival photo!
 
5. Celeb spot.
Oh hey Fearne & Reggie Yates - give us a wave!
 
6. Get a good view of the main stage.
And remember if you're lucky enough for a mate to lift you up on their shoulders - don't flash your boobs for the whole festival to see!!
 
7. Keep cosy until the bitter end.

 8. Capture those beaut festival sunsets - one for Instagram!

Anyone else got any top tips for Reading & Leeds festival? And which lucky monkey's are off to mosh to Metallica and swoon to Mumford & Sons? Have fun and go make memories.
 

This post is a PR collaboration with Smart Buy Glasses SmartBuyGlasses.co.uk

CUSTOM DESIGN BY PRETTYWILDTHINGS