Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate Christmas Cake

I find it hard to stomach Nigella Lawson. But, she does make the most completely indulgent, guilt-laden delicious food. This fruit cake, taken from her Feast cookbook, is no exception. I’m usually against taking a good thing and tampering with it, and I’m the world’s biggest fan of the traditional Christmas cake, but here the chocolate takes a back seat and still lets the fruit do all the talking. Not only does it look fantastic when decorated with a dusting of icing sugar and a sprig of holly, but it keeps for ages making it the perfect present. I’ll be taking mine round to my granny and grampa’s tomorrow. Might need a forklift to deliver this one – it weighs a tonne!

See the full recipie on the Bristol Foodie blog here.

Happy Christmas x

Monday, December 17, 2012

LionHeart Magazine is One

And i'm in it!

Congratulations to Helen and her bundle of joy - the beautiful LionHeart magazine turned one last week! Hels as has done an amazing job creating such a high quality publication, from what I imagine, essentially comes from a little shed at the back of the garden. I finally managed to grab half an hour to sit down, curl up, and delve into the adventure packed issue, number three.

While my friends begin their adventures and settle down with their family, my only own bundle of joy is seeing my thoughts and words on paper – the print equivalent of my name in flashing lights. I wonder, does that giddy feeling ever disappear? It didn’t this time and I don’t think will the next. Or the time after that. When it does, I think its time to put down the pen and find the next escapade.

I always feel nervous hearing the inbox ping with the new LionHeart theme, and although the next issue won’t be out for a good few months, I can confirm the next one is damn good; abstract, but material, malleable but solid. Can’t wait to get my head down over the holidays and scribble away.

In the meantime, check out my piece in the adventure issue of the new LionHeart Magazine, available online here and in all good bookshops. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Guest blogger for Bristol Foodie…

I’m still digesting the thought of the Bristol Foodie girls, who managed to chow their way through ten buffet meals during two weeks in August; all in the name of research for the Bristol Good Food Awards 2012 of course. Since launching their blog last year – ‘founded over a bottle of Pinot and a mutual love of all things edible’ – the site has gone from strength to strength, thanks to a great range of reviews, recipes and events around the city. It also helps that we’re completely spoilt for choice here for great eateries, from the quick lunchtime delights of St. Nicks Market, to blow out Michelin Starred restaurants. 

For me, hailing from the far flung depths of Cornwall, the most foodie fabulous thing about Bristol is the smörgåsbord of independent delis and Asian shops we have scattered around. Bristol Sweetmart in Easton is arguably one of the best; a mind boggling array of the the weird, wonderful and staple food stuffs. It has to be experienced. Read my review of the Sweetmart on the BristolFoodie website (thanks girls). Maldive fish flakes and Tamarind Paste anyone…?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lion Heart Magazine

It’s arrived!

Very content, excited, but with a slightly nervous upside-down belly feeling, to see my piece included in Hel’s roaringly inspiring Lion Heart Magazine. 

From a fleck of an idea, illegible hand written sketches in a note pad, to the impending doom of the flashing curser on a white screen and miles of a blank white page to go. To this. My words. In print. On velvet smooth paper. Bound with other ideas, but released out into the arms of anyone who wishes to read it.

Buy the second issue here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Serendipitous #2

'Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.'

Eight feet of nasal wicker, freaking me out on every walk home.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is home where the hearth is?

Is home where the heart is, the hearth is, the other half is, wherever you lay your hat, where your treasures are hoarded and hung, a place to pile accumulated clutter, the stage to craft future memories, or nothing more than a ruffled bed to crash as you flit between work and friends? Spending the last month unintentionally catching a glimpse of other people’s lives while searching for a room to rent, I found it’s the home attached to the room that can be the hard part to find.

The first I viewed was the new build, in the old hippy quarter. I was too busy admiring the skewed roof angles and clashing layers of paint along the street to notice I had cycled right past the uninspiring house I was supposed to see. High white security walls amongst tightly packed ecletic terraced houses, built and smog coated from every decade past. I was apparently unnoticed and unexpected too. The housemate didn’t know that the other had even advertised the room. I sat in awkward silence under house arrest, burnt the roof of my mouth sinking back the scolding tea and left as fast my bike could carry me.

The next were the two outdoor types, who left me waiting out in the cold and rain for 40 minutes - homeless. It felt colder inside than it did out. The upholstery felt damp to touch, water condensed on the window, the droplets slid down and absorbed into the sodden wooden frame. I knew the routine here, counting down in quarter seconds underneath the duvet, before throwing back the covers and braving the sprint to the warm embrace of the shower. University had proven I could hack an environment like this. Now it had nothing to warm too. I have a love affair with the outdoors, but not enough to invite it into my home.

Then there were the two twenty year olds who forgot about the 10am viewing invite after a drunken bender the night before. They answered the door flustered with parakeet quiffs and bloodshot eyes. Their laughter couldn’t detract from their home - as wild as their night.

Then the sterile slick city apartment, and the probation officer who worked in the same office as my best friend. Turns out the big bad smoke was just as small the countryside I had left behind. Too close to home.

On the verge of sticking my white flag in the air, came the final house. Rows of bay windows invited my glances as I walked up the road. The young family sitting down to dinner, upturned plastic garden furniture and weeds outside the student flat, a white haired pensioner engrossed in his book. Lives living back to back. The owner answered, every bit as eccentric, rough around the edges and inviting as the home in which he stood. Woodfield Road. My sanctuary on the cusp of the city. I knew before the door had even shut with its satisfying click behind me.

Late at night, I hear the walls creek and sigh under the weight of life which has lived here. The couples councillor, the Chanel counter girl, the charity worker, the frustrated musician searching for his muse. Muffled echoes, exchanges of nothing in particular talk. The low rumble, barely audible, of the rush hour traffic, and the deep sleep snores of the housemate next door. All this life, crammed inside four sturdy walls. I lean on both for support.

The place where players are free from attack. Where something flourishes. From where you originate. It’s warmth from the inside out - more than the fireplace, the dog, the sofa which swallows you whole – when you know your home.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Serendipitous #1


Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:
serendipity /ˌsɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪti/ 
nounthe occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
– derivatives
serendipitous adjective,
serendipitously adverb.
– origin 1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes were always making fortunate discoveries.

I missed the tramp who cycled passed wearing a green plastic colander for a helmet. But I did find this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

End of the 'ski season'?

St. Jacob

Walking to St. Jacob from St. Anton

Spring. St. Jacob 

After a more than a couple sleepless nights spent listening to the howling wind outside, the chimney popping to deliver brown dirt on the hearth, and horizontal rain slapping the single glazing, it was nice to get back to work after New Year and be greeted by the headline: “Is this the best ski season ever?” This, from the Telegraph - the year after my ski season working in St. Anton Austria, which turned out to be a year of mediocre, if very little, snow. Bitter? Me?

Despite getting off to a slow start this season, the storms and 100mph winds affecting England and Scotland at the start of the year were apparently the European Alps’ gain, with some resorts having more snow in just 10 days than the whole of the last season. Indeed, Peter Hardy’s article reported that snow at the top of St. Anton’s Valluga lift was inching towards nearly 600cm with 200cm in the town some 1507m bellow. 

Looking at my friend’s photographs who are back doing another season now, it’s hard to believe that this is the same place they arrived at the beginning of December. According to the Mail, 2011 had been badly affected by the warmest and driest autumn in the Alps for 147 years. Worrying, but completely unsurprising to me who left in April with a tan after sunbathing on our chalet balcony in shorts and t-shirt. Yet, despite the lack of snow I had an amazing ‘ski’ season, and one probably a lot different to those that most seasonaires have. 

Hit with roasting temperatures in early March, a lot of skiers were complaining about the poor snow conditions, yet we still managed to get out everyday and enjoy some good runs after the morning ice had worn off and before the afternoon slush kicked in. If it wasn’t for this then we wouldn’t have hit the snow park as much as we did, literally and figuratively speaking, nailing a three-sixty and witnessing some hilarious stacks on the rails in the process.

By the end of the month there was barely enough snow for the new form of langlaufen that the boys had invented - namely, avoiding gravel patches and scratching the hire skis. Used to exploring off-piste, we swapped our ski-boots for trainers and went wandering in the woods instead. Situated at the end of the resort, the winding 6km route through the Ferwall Valley and just beyond to the perfectly still glacier-blue waters of the Ferwall Lake was my first taste of what spring in the mountains might look like. Breathtakingly serene in a completely different way. We sipped hot chocolates at the inn at the end of the road, hushed and contemplative, usually the end destination of rowdy off-piste skiers who eventually arrive after dropping off the back of Moroikopf. 

Ferwall Lake
Another more humorous adventure was scrambling up the steep wooded hills on the opposing side of St. Anton’s main slopes, much like the mountain goats we had seen from a chair lift a few days before. After traversing for over an hour and making little headway we stumbled across a deer farm and its startled inhabitants - nestled away in the woods above the town. One flinch from us and they scattered, twigs snapping under-hoof. 

Blurry, but definitely a deer
As the grass turned green, crocuses popped up. We pickned again with friends in their garden in St. Jacob, the next village down, with goat guests who actually came trotting over to us, bells-a-jingling, by the end of the season. Free-wheeling down the valley on our bikes, legs stuck out like prongs was a feeling of complete freedom. We dipped our toes into icy mountain streams in a steep rocky gorge and walked across the trunks of fallen trees like a balancing beam.
Cycling down the valley from St. Anton
Bach gorge

The gorge at Bach
Cycling up from Flirsch

Picnicking with the locals
Cleaning our chalet rooms, I often stopped and gazed out of the windows at the opposing mountains above, my eyes always catching a glimpse of a little black square at the top of one of the peaks and a hairpin line of a path, snaking up towards it. Four days before the end of our season came most satisfying escapade - we hiked up to it. I liked to think I was pretty fit but walking up Kaiserjochhaus was hard. I can still feel my calf's burning now. Reaching the top at 2261m dispels all pain and sweat. We explored the Leutkircher Hut, an unmanned refuge for summer walkers with 6 bunk beds perfectly made out in gingham sheets.

Walking up Kaiserjochhaus
Keep walking

Leutkircher Hut

Picnic at 2261m

I wanted to jump under the covers and stay. As we picnicked with Bachensteiner cheese and stared down on the town and the past six months below, the lack of snow really couldn’t have been further from our minds.

All photographs by me and the other Kaluma Ski girls, Sarah Houston and Laura Higgs.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

High Hill Life

Where the common misconception of the Algarve is a mobbed deck-chaired beach, rudely affronted by apartment blocks, I have to admit that my heart sank a little when my parents finally settled on moving to Portugal. 

Leaving the appropriately nick-named Brizzle - an amalgamation of Bristol and its typical weather outlook – a few days before Christmas, the weather is the glaringly obvious reason why my parents decided to up sticks and move. But on touch down and a mere half-hour car journey inland from Faro, up into the hills, lies the real reason.  

Yes the weather’s good, but you feel a million miles away from the neon lights of a major Brits-abroad destination. Sao-bras de Alportel should have coined that Italian phrase ‘Il dolce far niente’; the art of doing nothing. It’s a sleepy Portuguese town with a decidedly anti-Albuferia feel. Replace beer-bellied-Brits with old toothless locals, reclining in plastic garden chairs by the side of the road, spinning yarns over a beer. It’s beautiful in a completely dilapidated kind of way; the plaster cracks in chunks off the façade of lived-in houses, weeds creep in an unruly manner over busy roads, gardens are littered with flowers and rusty bicycle parts.

I was pre-warned that winters in the Algarve can get cool and damp, but the weather during the day stayed warm, even hot at times. I ate my mince pies on a sun lounger outsider. I could hear the farmer next door, his outhouses of propped together corrugated iron, cough, hock, and spit away his day. Trees still burst with lemon and oranges - so many, you couldn't give them all away.

And at night, the temperatures drop. It’s cold enough to light the fires inside. And even when stray dogs bark well into the night. It’s somehow still right.

All photographs by me.