Has everyone else enjoyed their bank holiday weekend?  It’s been lovely seeing the sun again and remembering just how awesome England is in the spring.

After a busy day in the garden (ah, another post to come!) we decided that a takeaway was in order to celebrate just how brilliant we were at gardening and reward how hardworking we were.  An overpriced and not quite amazing pizza was delivered, eaten, and not enjoyed quite as much as we expected.  So now it’s going to be all about making our own takeaways and seeing if we can do it better.  Maybe not always easier, but definitely more satisfying.

First stop: kebabs.  Gyros to my American friends.  Proper doner kebabs like the ones that spin around in the dodgy kebab shops that you know you would never set foot in if you hadn’t already visited several fine drinking establishments and ideally an old-fashioned dance hall.  Or something.  With cheesy chips.  Cause chips are always nicer if they are cheesy, right?

The thing is, I’m not original and if I want to make something a quick google will usually find the recipe for what I want.  However a bit of creativity and willingness to adapt to either what is in the cupboard, or what tastes best, means that these googled recipes are often the best thing ever.  Doner kebab – well just follow this link here.  It involves minced lamb, plenty of fresh herbs and garlic, a little bit of chilling time (4 hours, but next time will try to plan ahead and go for an overnighter) and putting your meat into a brick shape.

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Like, how can you not love a brick shaped piece of meat?

This needs to be grilled til its burned and brown on the outside.  Flip. Burn and brown – in a good way.  Flip again and repeat til the smell is overwhelming you with its deliciousness.  You’ll end up with something like this:

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To my mind, the smell was better than any late night kebab shop.  It was like all your guilty pleasures rolled into one with the knowledge that the mince was not mystery meat.  The herbs were fresh, the meat was moist and the pita bread filled with more salad and slices than you’d ever get on Prince of Wales Road.  Score.

To complete the kebab, some nice fresh salad (no indigestion-inducing onion that has been out for days!) and some kick ass homemade salsa to replace any chili sauce out of a giant bottle.  And the cheesy chips?  Some nice homemade wedges cooked to perfection on a pizza stone, with über cheap cheese sprinkled on top.  Because perfection is not always pricey.

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I think takeaway perfection may become a favourite.  Let me know what your homemade cheeky secrets are please, I want more!

 

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You know how when you are growing up, the history of everyone and everything around you doesn’t really make any impression at first.  I had three sets of grandparents and they were all really cool but extremely different.  Today I am thinking about my mum’s dad, Grandpa, and his wife, Christina.  It’s been a while since they have been around but they have been in the news a lot lately.  Not actually them, but their home and business.  My Grandpa was village postmaster at Boxford Stores for as long as I knew and Christina, as far as I can still tell, ran the village with her wicked humour and unwavering dedication to the local community. If I wasn’t so shy I’d show you a picture of me dressed as a Box from Boxford for one of the Mad Hatters tea party’s she was involved in when trying to save the bells of the church opposite their shop. But I was embarrassed then and there are just some things… I think it’s still too soon to share.

What I have learned this week is that the shop I grew up visiting is the oldest shop in Britain. Like, how totally amazing is that?  It is really cool to learn something like that about a place you grew up in.  I wonder a little why I didn’t ever ask more about the shop’s history…but now is the time to start to learn.  Things that happened during the 600-or-so years Boxford Stores has been open:

  • 1420: Catherine of Valois became queen.  She isn’t near as interesting as Anne Boleyn, but she did marry a Henry and was Henry VII’s great, great grandma. A man called Humphrey dominated her world for a while.  That can’t be nice.
  • 1520: Henry VII challenged King Francis of France to a wrestling match. Not sure who won
  • 1620: The Mayflower started its voyage to America.  My great-Aunt Mel had lots of stories that she uncovered through her own genealogy, and once again I wish that I had actually paid more attention.
  • 1720: Mrs Clements marketed the first paste-style mustard.  Seriously.  I love condiments.
  • 1820: Tomatoes were proven non-poisonous and potatoes were planted in Hawaii.  Google it.
  • 1920: Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees and the NFL formed, with the Chicago Bears winning the first ever NFL game.

But who cares about world events, when you can talk about yourself?  600 years is a long time but the press aren’t concerned about that, or what actually went on in Boxford Stores.  So for my little bit of history, here are the things I used to do in that shop:

  • Eat the best ham cooked on the bone anywhere in the world.
  • Watch while grown postmen hid behind doors and I played outside with the not at all ferocious dalmation, Jimmy.  He nipped men, not little girls.
  • Choose the ice cream for dinner that night.
  • Snooze on the couch while Grandpa watched sport. Darts. Golf. Football. Anything.
  • Play connect 4 with Grandpa.
  • Lose at Connect 4 and refuse to learn chess cause that looked even harder.
  • Be sure to bring my prettiest dresses for dinner because Christina always liked it when I dressed up.
  • Hide my teddy bears from Jimmy because for a big dog, he did like to cuddle them.
  • Play Pooh Sticks on the bridge that gave the house its name.
  • Hit the red button that looked innocuous but apparently called the police out…twice.
  • Play in the beautiful garden and talk with the gardener for all hours.  It was like the Secret Garden, except already discovered by the grown ups.
  • Smell Grandpa’s constant pipe smoke.
  • Wonder what on earth was in the upstairs in the store room.  I wasn’t allowed up there.
  • Help Christina’s sister, Rose, make the gravy.  She made amazing roast dinners.
  • Chat with the ladies in the shop.  They were friendlier than the postmen and would let me eat the ham.
  • Sneak from the bedroom, into one of the store rooms, into the shop.  And wonder why no one was surprised when I showed up that way.
  • Try not to step on the cracks in the tiled hallway.  Easy when I was 5, harder when I was 15.

It’s nice to remember these things.  I asked my mum for some photos and these are some of what she found.  My grandparents were really good people and it makes me happy to see pictures from their good life:

Early Days - 1

Early Days - 2

Boxford & Family - 34

Bridge House 6 - Version 2

Boxford Stores 1

Family 1 - Version 2

Boxford & Family - 01

Other misc photos - 2

Boxford & Family - 34 - Version 2

Boxford 1 - Version 2

Boxford & Family - 27

Boxford & Family - 33

Boxford & Family - 31

Recently I began a relationship with The Tidiest Man Ever.  He hates clutter.  Fortunately for him I am a Queen of Projects and thanks to him, I am actually now completing them.  This is nice for several reasons – I am less cluttered, with unfinished projects dotted around the house, I am less cluttered, because my projects are set to make life neater and more organised, and he is happy with the fact I feel accomplished, and am tidy. All round winning, I say!

So, in my hallway downstairs I had a big old bamboo coat and umbrella stand.  It was retro chic if you liked big, dusty old bamboo furniture.  It does serve its purpose very well, don’t get me wrong, I could hang a dozen coats on it and still have space for more.  Except for the fact I only really wear about two different coats and sometimes struggled to get past it to go up the stairs.  Of course, Pinterest had the answer: a pallet coat rack!

Of course I wanted it.  So clean, so fancy…so organised!! I needed it in my life.  Fortunately I am able to find things like pallets fairly easily so I got one home and set to work painting.  In an ideal world I would have spent the time to sand it down and remove any of the giant splinters I found, but we all know this world is not ideal, I am a little lazy and next time I would invest in an electric sander because elbow grease and paper just weren’t going to cut it.  A few coats of white paint did the trick though to cover up the worst of the splinters and my pallet looked like this:IMG_3846

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Which was nice, but a little bit of colour was needed to brighten it up (too much white never works for me, remember, I am a chaotic mess sometimes!) so a few tester pots later, along with some bargain hooks, this was the end result:

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It is now hanging in the hallway with fairy lights, a special spot for keys and every time I walk down the stairs I feel a little bit proud of myself.  The only problem is, the weather has changed and the need for coats has diminished…so it may be a few months before my handiwork is put to its final test! But that’s okay.  All I need now, is a new pallet project…

(my target and my actual….not so bad really!)

Pinterest Pallet Coat HooksFinished Pallet (full credit for the pallet hanging apparatus goes to the Domestic Doozie at – you can order the french cleats online and they arrived in the UK in just a few weeks!)

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to spend the morning snorkelling in Bali. I was experiencing my first round the world trip, backpacking the island with friends I had made along the way and found myself spending about three hours exploring the underwater world of Jemeluk Bay in Amed. I was especially happy that day because I can remember realising I was 18, on my own in a beautiful part of the world and had just done so many things and met so many wonderful people that I never would have imagined the year before as I was finishing my A Levels. I really was in another world. And to top off my smug feelings, my usually pale English Rose skin had managed to see enough sunlight that it was my Californian friend who got fried in the ocean, and not me. Things were good.

That afternoon I went to our guesthouse and had the best meal ever. I chose red snapper because I had spent the morning swimming with them and thought it a poetic end to my perfect day. The snapper was fresh, barbecued and served with a spicy Balinese sauce that had been cooled down enough for my western taste buds to enjoy and forever love the mix of chilies and flavours that have simply been imprinted on my mind as ‘perfect’. I sat under a hut on the beach eating and talking to the guys on the bar, feeling a million dollars and way more worldly wise and sophisticated than any smart, chic lady in Paris, London, Milan…..

And we skip forward thirteen and a half years. I just enjoyed my second Big Adventure (having had several Escapades and Romps, a few High Jinks and occasional Shennanigans in the meantime so don’t worry, I wasn’t left wasting away). This Big Adventure to Thailand and beyond finally got my snorkel back on and in the Trang Islands, I saw a white snapper swimming amongst the angel fish. It seemed only right and fitting to head back to the friendliest restaurant on Ko Lanta’s Klong Dao beach, enjoy a happy hour Mai Tai and follow the genial hosts recommendation for how he would eat his white snapper: filleted, fried and cooked in a delicious Thai Spicy red curry sauce. While I remain unconvinced that I was given the real ‘Thai Spicy’ curry, the meal itself, combined with the epic day of snorkelling, visiting paradise’s beach, swimming through a sea cave to an emerald cavern and witnessing one of nature’s beautiful sunsets helped the white snapper live up to the memory of its red predecessor. I got to eat with sand in my toes. No girl could actually ask for more. Maybe not the second best meal…but close enough.

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I love how many of my great memories are about eating.  The snappers were special meals for so many reasons.  I love cooking and the flavours, textures and experiences good food bring you.  And writing on here….what a great excuse to keep taking pictures of that yummy food 🙂

It’s all about…. food, friends, family, home.  Keeping busy, keeping interested, remembering to relax.  I quite often find that there is so much going on that I don’t appreciate either what I am doing or what I should be enjoying because I am too busy worrying about the next thing.  I recently took a break from work and travelled in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam for three months.  I don’t dare claim to say that those three months changed my life, but they certainly were what I needed.  A chance to stop worrying about the day to day, a time to re-evaluate what was important, experience new things and meet new people….the idea behind my trip had been all those things.  In reality I got to spend time with my new best friend, read more books than I had in the previous three years, take photos and eat the most glorious food I think I have ever had the privilege of enjoying. Oh yeah, and a severe Pinterest addiction that was mostly sparked by my need to see food with cheese and the desire to make my flat at home look like a magazine spread, but made out of love and hard work with a minimal budget (I had just been traveling and not working for three months after all!)

So here I am.  It’s been three months since I returned and I’ve had a tonne of fun cooking food with cheese, decorating and designing for the flat, wondering how to tackle the jungle that is my garden and trying to recreate the delicious foods I ate in Asia.  I read many blogs and know that anything I put on here won’t be unique, but I hope that you enjoy my page and come back for more.  This little online diary will be my own attempt to remember all the fun I have every day making it all a little bit lovelier.

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