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Uni friends

Out for Bangladeshi food in ST Andrews on my 23rd birthday – so young!

I’m signing off early this weekend to drive to Bonn for a weekend with two old flatmates from uni, Hannah and Ellie. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, so despite the long drive this morning (winter tyres on two days ago so I’m prepared for anything!) I am excited to finally leave.

We’ve not lived in the same country since we graduated, spreading out between England, Germany, Belgium, South Africa, the USA… we’re a mobile bunch I guess. So the chance to be in the same room together for a whole weekend? There’s nothing quite like it.

So happy Friday, have a wonderful weekend and I hope you find many moments to enjoy your friends.

My Parents Laughing

The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.  ~ Nicolas Chamfort

(Photos of my parents have a good laugh on Christmas Eve)

Today’s post is a little plug for my friend Ben. He just released the first part of his debut album A Life Outside.

I may be biased but I do think his songs are some of the best I have heard in a long long time. The sound is beautiful, the lyrics are thoughtful… they’re just really good!

His album is available on itunes if that’s where you get you music from. But it’s also FREE for the first two weeks of release if you download it from Noisetrade (which is where I get most of my new music!). If you like what you hear you can leave a tip, but there’s no requirement to. Just download, listen and enjoy!

Here’s the link again. Just so you have no excuses for not going to listen ;)

This week has been all about friendship.

I know, I hope that every week is about friendship. And it is. But for some reason, maybe the combination of one of my best friends being back in town for a short time, and the shower we threw for another wonderful friend, this week has felt drenched in friendship. Which is a lovely lovely feeling. There have been coffees and brunches and afternoon teas and evening dinners (double date sushi tonight – yey!) and it is just wonderful.

More and more I am realising that friendship needs to be spontaneous. It can be hard with busy schedules to plan things but sometimes you realise, hmm, I have no lunch plans today and that is the moment to call your friend and say “let’s grab a baguette and walk around the park kicking leaves”.

And I’m more and more about simple entertaining. Forget the elaborate table decorations (although I love the pretty!) and just be together. So today celebrating friendship is my favourite… and here are a few inspirations I’ve gathered from around the web of how to do just that:

1) Breakfast dates. My new favourite time to meet friends is for breakfast. No, I’m not really a morning person, but even friends who work full time can do a quick morning coffee and croissant before work starts. And somehow the idea of half hour quality chat with someone I like gets me out of bed better than anything else.

Casey, guestblogging at IartU, came up with “breakfast on the go”, perfect for morning rendezvous!

I can almost guarantee you that if you promise pancakes at 8am tomorrow, half a dozen friends will turn up on your doorstep on time, despite the early hour. Photo from Bump Smitten.

2) Lunchtime Picnic. I am also strongly of the opinion that picnics should not just resigned to summer. The parks are stunning at the moment in all their autumn glory, and should be enjoyed at every opportunity! Pack a thermos of hot coffee or soup, wrap up warm and enjoy getting out of the office/house and letting the wind blow away those cobwebs!

Picture source unknown, via Cindy 

3) Afternoon Tea. My friend Ellie is the biggest advocate for afternoon teas that I know, and I am firmly in her camp. It is one of the things I miss most about the UK. Whether you do it in refined ladylike style with delicate china, or instead with big mugs of tea and generously proportioned slices of cake, afternoon tea is the perfect excuse for friends time.

This cafe in London does traditional afternoon tea, or “men’s afternoon tea” with beer, pork pies and scotch eggs. Splendid! By Zoe.

Take the kids with you! Kelle found this adorable tea shop in Florida and she and her girls dressed up in hats and gloves for their afternoon tea session. I love it!

4) Wine and cheese evenings. Yes, it sounds a bit snobby, but really there is nothing easier or more relaxing than a wine and cheese evening. Just buy a few fancy-looking bottles from the supermarket and some interesting looking cheeses from the cheesemonger (if you’re lucky enough to have one down the road like us) and, bobs your uncle, the party is ready! It doesn’t harm at all that the wine will radically help in the “relaxing” part ;)

This birthday party looks bliss. Cheese, crackers, candlelight and cake. What more could you want?! From Monkey in LA‘s blog.

Ok, so this is a “Dark & Stormy” cocktails and cheese night, but the concept is the same, just with spirits rather than wine, which helps with the relaxing even more! Photos by The Blue Hour via A Subtle Revelry.

Yesterday morning, I met up with three girlfriends and we drove out of the city to Vieux-Genappe, a village I’d never heard of in the Belgian countryside by Waterloo. Our destination was La Ferme du Hameau du Roy, a small farm with an amazing bakery and a small cafe.


It was a grey, miserable day but that meant that the staff had lit the fire in the grate, so we chose the table right next to it, and ordered their “Imperial” breakfast for all four of us. It included freshly squeezed orange juice, hot coffee or tea, light fluffy scrambled eggs from the farm hens, little pots of jams and chocolate spread, also all home-made, and the most delicious assortment of their hand-baked breads and pastries. Delicious!

It was such a delicious brunch, and we devoured it all in no time, and then kept chatting and snacking on more bread until we were dangerously full! There’s really nothing quite like having brunch with friends. I feel like it should be a much more common occurrence. This was also special because our friend Sarah who used to live here was just back visiting for a week, so we had to make the most of every moment…

After we’d finished brunch, we walked back through the farm shop to see all the wonderful breads, cookies, marzipan sweets and tarts on display. They were already prepared for Christmas, and especially for Sinterklaas on 6 December, which is an important holiday here in Belgium.

It’s sad that I’m only discovering this wonderful place a few weeks before I leave. But then it does provide a great excuse to come back and visit – maybe they’ll insist on taking me out for a great brunch too :)

My Grandpa is going in to hospital for a hip operation on Monday. All of his twelve grandchildren live far away from him (he lives up in the middle of the Scottish Highlands!) but we’re planning to bombard him with cards and letters and small gifts to remind him that we love him and are praying for him.

I was thinking of what I could send him that he would appreciate (he’s a dignified old Scottish gentleman who hates having a fuss made over him!) and decided I’d make this week’s Friday Favourites post all about him. So here’s my favourite things to send to Grandpa to wish him “Get Well Soon!”…

  • The days are drawing in and Scotland’s not known for being exactly warm (and my Grandpa not known for wasting money on heating) so a Liberty hot water bottle may be needed!
  • Long recoveries can be boring, even with three of your four offspring visiting to cook you meals and make sure the garden doesn’t get too overgrown. A new crime novel, his favourite musical and a sudoku cube should keep Grandpa amused for a few hours.
  • All the children’s books about hospital visits that I read when I was little promised ice cream after whatever procedure was being undergone. Mackies honeycomb ice cream is the BEST ice cream in the whole wide world, and is always on offer at Grandpa’s house, so we’ll make sure the freezer is well stocked.
  • And yes, I know alcohol and pain meds are not necessarily a great combination, but you can’t take Scotland out of the man. A dram of Macallan 12 year single malt should speed the recovery…!

This is my favourite photo from the weekend at my niece’s baptism. Little babies are so precious, there is so much promise, so much potential, so much beauty in this tiny little bundle of limbs.

It reminds be of the famous poem Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

  From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Today we are on our way to Denmark, for the baptism of our brand new niece, Madicken, on Sunday. This is particularly special as Rasmus and I will be standing as her godparents, which is such an honour.

I’ve also been charged with baking a cake for the reception so I am travelling with all my recipes and ingredients :)

We’ve been making a lot of snacks to take along on the journey with us so we’re not tempted my burger king, or the usual sweets, crisps and coke diet that are our long road trips usually! A few days ago we made a huge batch of frikadeller (Danish meatballs), and this morning I’ve just spent the last hour and a half making spring rolls with leftover chicken from a roast earlier in the week. Add to that carrots, tomatoes, radishes and some freshly popped popcorn, I don’t think we’ll be too hungry when we get there!

Have a great weekend!

Rasmus and I were back in the UK this weekend for a friend’s wedding, and also to catch up with lots of my family, since the wedding was close to my parents’ home. It was the first time we’d seen them since before we went to America, so needless to say there were big hugs all round when we arrived, and lots of catching up to do.

Saturday we drove up to Warwick, close to where my sister lives, and spent a chilly but fun afternoon at Warwick castle.

It’s a beautiful old castle set right in the middle of Warwick town on the River Avon. It’s mostly still intact, so you can walk along the battlements and up the old towers, or wander through the lavishly decorated hallways and grand rooms, imagining yourself at royal dinners and weekend hunting parties…

There were hundreds (literally) of steps to walk up and down and fantastic views from the top. I don’t mind going up those spiral stairways  but coming down? I get dizzy within about 30 seconds and then spend the rest of them going down at snails pace feeling my way. Clearly I would have made a rubbish medieval soldier. Middle of a siege and I’m scooting down the stairs on my butt to fetch more arrows or boiling tar…!

It was a fun day and we even got to see the birds of prey show which was fascinating. They had an owl, a hawk and an eagle on display that day. At some point the wee hawk dived towards the  food missing my head by about four inches which about gave me a heart attack! The eagle was the most impressive, such a huge huge creature and so beautiful to see him fly. I did find it funny when their handler told us that since it actually takes them a lot of energy to fly they’re much happier just sitting around in trees waiting for their food to come along. Sounds a lot like me sometimes!

Sunday we got to see some of my cousins and my aunt and uncle which was lovely. We somehow squeezed all 13 of us into my parents’ kitchen for a yummy lunch. In the interest of full disclosure (and because my cousin Allie said she would out me on my blog! Shocking!) I did have a tiny slice of bakewell tart, which is definitely not in the allowable foods list for our month’s detox! But since my aunt had brought along two delicious tarts and a chocolate birthday cake for my cousins’ little boy, I think one small slice is showing remarkable restraint!

I hope you all had a marvelous weekend too!

We’re doing our best to eat as much of the food in our cupboards as possible before we leave, so that we don’t have to store too much while we are gone. It’s been like a fun game – what can I make for dinner with beans, condensed milk and ginger?

Tonight I had three of my besties around for dinner (we were originally meant to fly out today so every extra day with them needs to be savoured :) I made lasagne since we have piles of lasagne that I still only managed to use half of. There is something about making lasagne which is very therapeutic. The different stages, standing over the white sauce stirring until it thickens, and then building it all up methodically into its many layers.

I forgot to take out my camera until dessert though when Jenna reminded me that I should be blogging this… so here they are enjoying their pumpkin cream pie (recipe courtesy of Pioneer Woman).

Well they all look like they enjoyed it :)