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 café 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

22 August 2015

Easy as Eggy Bread...

Feeling inspired by my photographer friend Lara Jane Thorpe's yummy Instagram snap of eggy bread and a cuppa Dorset Tea, I decided to give it a whirl. How hard can it be?

Follow @larajanethorpe on Instagram for more mouth watering foodie snaps

I googled 'how to make eggy bread' and chose the Net Mums recipe. Well if it's good enough for toddlers!

Here's a link to the recipe - www.netmums.com/recipes/eggy-bread and below are the quick and easy steps.

Ingredients:
* 1 egg per slice of bread - 1 decided to use 2 eggs & 2 slices of Burgen soya & linseed bread
* Olive oil
* Honey syrup for serving or what ever condiment you fancy

Ingredients that everyone has in their house

Method:
1. Crack the eggs in a bowl & beat.
2. Heat a couple drops of oil in a frying pan.
3. Whilst the oil is warming up, dip the bread in the bowl coating both sides with egg.
4. Pop one of the soaked breads in the pan and cook each side for about 1 minute - repeat with the other slice & pour any egg remains over the bread.
5. Serve eggy bread with your favourite condiment. I tried Rowse acacia honey for some added sweetness.

 1. Crack & beat those eggs
 3. Dip the bread in the egg
4. Pop in the pan!
 4. Cook each side for 1-2 minutes
And voila eggy bread!

I'm sure you can make it more exciting by adding peppers or tomatoes, but I liked mine plain and simple and it took about 10 minutes from start to washing up!!

Enjoy!

Do you have any good eggy bread recipes or tips?

02 August 2015

Jersey Jolly

 
Hey Country Bumpkins! How you all doing?
 
Last week I spent a long weekend with Dan over in Jersey. The main reason was for my friend Clancy who was getting wed to Oliver at St Brelade on the Sunday. We decided to tag on a few days to do some exploring and it was our first holiday/break away from sleepy Dorset, so we were both pretty excited. Here's a photo review of our trip and some recommendations along the way, as well as one or two to flee!
 
 
Standard holiday airport beers!
 
We flew from Bournemouth airport with Flybe, which took all of 30 minutes! I've never been on such a quick flight before. By the time we'd started sipping on our drinks it was time for touch down into St Helier. We were staying over in St Clement which is on the eastern side of the island, and rather than taxiing it across, we decided to try out the bus service. There was a direct bus from the airport to St Helier for £2 which took about 20+ minutes and then from Liberation Station, the main bus station we caught the bus to St Clement which was £1.50 and about a 15 minute bus ride. Thankfully, I sat next to a local lady from Gorey who kindly pointed out our stop - The Shakespeare Hotel.
 
Now, booking The Shakespeare Hotel was a bit last minute.com, as I already had a hotel room over in St Brelade at the Golden Sands. When I originally booked that room in January I was a single girl, and now I wasn't. The Golden Sands weren't very accommodating in upgrading and due to my hiccup with Booking.com it was non refundable. Huge school girl error. Anyways, so we ended up at The Shakespeare Hotel and put it this way its no place for Romeo and Juliet. But, it was a good location for us to get around and explore the island.
 
Beer & Cider at the local Le Hocq Inn
 
On Friday morning, after our full English Breakfast we took the free shuttle bus down to St Helier, had a mooch around town got bored pretty quickly looking in jewellers and clothes shops and decided to hire some bikes.
 

Pretty flowers at the indoor market
 
We hired our mountain bikes from Zebra Bike Hire for £27 for two days of exploring.

With our rucksacks, cycle maps and waterproof jackets (yep even Jersey didn't escape the downpours!) we headed out of St Helier and towards St Brelade - a blustery ride along St Aubin, but it was flat, so I couldn't complain.
 
A friend recommended visiting the Lavender Farm in St Brelade and it just happened to be a stone's throw off the cycle path, so we popped along. The weather turned as soon as we got there, we managed to pop across the lawn and take shelter in the distillery and find out about the lavender making process. As you can imagine it smelt lush!
 
 
After the Lavender Farm we headed up towards St Helier airport in St Peter where the heavens opened and we took shelter under a tree before deciding on where to go next.

We decided to weave our way across to the Jersey War Tunnels in St Lawrence. Once we got there we found out the tour was about an hour and a half long and didn't really appeal to us. If we weren't time precious or conscious about not getting soaked again we probably would have done it. The Jersey War Tunnel vintage bus was pretty cute though and they had a lovely visitors shop!

 Jersey War Tunnel Vintage Bus
 Only in Jersey! Sadly we didn't spot any kamikaze squirrels!
 
From the Jersey War Tunnels we headed up to Hampstonne in St Lawrence and found a fantastic downhill run (C118 - Les Chemins des Moulin or Mill Lane in English!) which ran past a reservoir and there wasn't a soul on the road. It reminded me of a long cruisey blue run in the French Alps - it was pretty perfect after the earlier drenching.


We followed the road back towards the sea and ended up on the coastal cycle path towards St Helier. We stopped off for a quick pit stop, burger, fries & milkshake at The Lookout Beach Café which was one of my fave places.

 Moody weather about to set in
Yummy milkshakes!
Hmmmm burger & fries
 
Once we finished our late lunch we pedalled pretty sharpish back to the hotel as you could see the rain coming in across St Aubin's Bay. We managed to make it back within 20 minutes, with a quick visit to the mini M&S to pick up some bottles of prosecco and back to the hotel to freshen up.

In the evening, we tried going to Green Island for dinner, but sadly there was no room at the inn and they were pretty pompous about letting us know too. So, we pedalled back up to Le Hocq Inn for what was the best meal of the 4 days - a saucepan of mussels in a white wine and cream sauce for £10.95!!! Billy bargain and it was delicious.

 

Saturday brought sunshine, blue skies and fun times bombing around the island on our bikes. After yet another full English we headed off east towards Gorey. It took us about an hour to get there, winding our way up some fairly steep hills. I must admit I did dismount on one very windy hill, the good thing is that once you get to the top, the only way is down and with it was a beautiful view stretching out towards The Royal Bay of Grouville, Gorey Harbour and Mont Orgueil Castle. They were just breathtaking views and made the pedalling worth it!

 
As it was my birthday week too, I decided to treat myself to a Jersey Pearl bracelet. I'd seen the design in the St Helier store, but hadn't seen a blue bracelet colour, so jumped at the chance when I saw it in Gorey and it will definitely remind me of mine and Dan's break biking around the island together.

 
After pedalling our way to Gorey we had a bit of a mission. The next aim was to cycle over to St Ouen for a pre wedding meet up with Clancy and Oliver at El Tico Beach Restaurant at 3pm. Apparently it was about 14 miles!! It was about 11.30am by the time we left Gorey and plugged our way across the island through St Martin, St Saviour, Trinity, back through St Lawrence and eventually reaching St Ouen. Apart from a bit of map negotiating and asking locals for advice it was pretty stress free, the roads were quiet - really quiet, and very French! We reached the top of St Ouen at about 2.30pm and took some photos from La Rue de la Mare (road to the pond!). Again the views were breath-taking.
 
 Feeling very relieved that we made it - well almost!
 Beers, burger and fries - standard cyclist diet!
 Selfie stick times with friends
 
Wedding time! As I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, the main reason we were in Jersey was to see my friend Clancy and Oliver tie the knot. I've known Clancy since I was about 18 (15+ years!!) when we worked in The Sun Inn, Charminster and Saxon Arms, Stratton. Clancy soon became my partner in crime for nights out in Dorchester and Weymouth. And we relished any chance we could catch up during uni holidays and weekends when she was home from London. Those nights out always used to be the messiest, but most fun nights. I was very excited to see her marrying her prince Oliver and in such a beautiful location at L'Horizon, St Brelade. It was a gorgeous afternoon and Clancy looked stunning!
 

 Hotel selfie stick time! Cheese!
 Party feet & Frock ready to go!
Shoes - River Island
Dress - H&M
 St Brelade Bay
 Wedding time!
Wedding confetti
 Clancy with her cousins
 Cute ice-cream van
 Perfect match - ice-cream & Pimm's
 Wedding transport
Wedding cake!
Photobooth with a twist
The Gorgeous Mr & Mrs Hammond!
Big thank you to Toby & Jaq over at The Little Print House for designing Clancy & Oliver's unique wedding print. They loved it!

 
Wow, it was a jam packed four days in Jersey, over 50+ miles cycling, 2 burger and fries, a saucepan of mussels, 2 ice-creams, 3 full English Breakfasts, too much prosecco and beer and 1 beautiful wedding on the beach. Take me back now please!!


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