My weekend has mainly been spent…

Egg and Bacon Cups Family Photo Picture Wall Izzy Jesse Playing Fish Pie and Apple Scrumble

  • Waking up as Jesse climbed into our bed.
  • Drifting back to sleep while Mr. LA headed downstairs to make tea and coffee.
  • Snuggling with Izzy for a while. She told me recently that she misses lying in bed with us at the weekend. Jesse wakes early, so we’re often downstairs by the time she surfaces.
  • Sleepily joining the boys beneath a blanket on the sofa.
  • Sipping tea and watching Tin Tin cartoons on Netflix
  • Cooking and eating Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups for breakfast. So good.
  • Gradually preparing to face the day. I was determined to slow down this weekend as I’ve been caught in a bit of a funk recently.
  • Catching the bus to Kingswood.
  • Excitedly stocking up on picture frames in Wilkos before rushing home to plan our family photo gallery.
  • Tucking into sweet potato chilli for lunch.
  • Losing ourselves in boxes {and digital folders} of photos, trying to pick our favourites and settle on a layout.
  • Snoozing on the sofa while the children watched a movie.
  • Reluctantly sorting laundry.
  • Inhaling the scent of bonfires and crisp, cool air as I hung the washing out to dry. It smelt like autumn.
  • Making meatballs and spaghetti.
  • Eating too much.
  • Reading Jesse a few pages from The Enormous Crocodile*. I’m so glad he’s fallen in love with Roald Dahl just like his sister before him.
  • Sipping wine and watching A Million Ways to Die in the West. It was so awful we actually switched it off before the end!
  • Retreating to bed.
  • Sleeping in.
  • Waking myself up with a bowl of porridge and a mug of tea.
  • Agreeing to an even lazier day than the one before.
  • Feeling content as the children played in their PJs.
  • Not doing very much at all.
  • Poaching apples in sugar and cinnamon.
  • Wishing my home could always smell as delicious as it did while they bubbled away on the stove.
  • Sitting down to a light lunch.
  • Curling up on the sofa to watch Hugo. Such a beautiful children’s film.
  • Drifting in and out of sleep as the kids remained glued to the movie.
  • Throwing open the French doors and encouraging the children to get some fresh air while I made dinner.
  • Smiling as they disappeared inside the tipi with colouring pens and paper. We barely heard a sound from them for the next hour.
  • Preparing fish pie for supper. It’s Mr. LA’s favourite.
  • Transforming the apples from earlier into scrumble. If you’ve never tried this half scone, half crumble hybrid, you really must. It’s amazing!
  • Eating way, way too much.
  • Depositing the children in the tub and giving the bathroom a quick scrub while they frolicked in the water.
  • Tucking Jesse into bed.
  • Sitting with Izzy for a while before she headed to bed herself.
  • Drinking tea while typing this blog post.
  • Looking forward to an early night and hoping I have the energy for another long week ahead.

Love Audrey xxx

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Love Audrey Bakes ~ Plum & Pecan Crumble

Plum and Pecan Crumble

Asking me which fruit I enjoy most in my crumble is like asking me to pick a favourite child. I just can’t do it. You could present me with plain old apple, apple and blackberry, pear and ginger, rhubarb or gooseberry and I’d be more than happy to tuck in. I’m even fairly open minded about the whole cream/ice cream/custard debate. Seriously, it’s all good.

But asking me which crumble I enjoy making the most is an entirely different issue. While I relish the simplicity of unadulterated apple, this plum and pecan beauty will always win outright. There’s something so enticing about the way the ruby red fruit glistens as you pull it out of the oven, filling the kitchen with their sugary aroma. Drenched in sweet, buttery syrup, the juices bubble up and burst through the golden, nutty crumble topping in such a satisfying way.     Plum and Pecan Crumble

Originally from How to be a Domestic Goddess*, I’ve followed this recipe many times in the past. On this occasion the fruit was foraged; a kilo of plums presented to me by our friendly neighbour two doors down. Only this afternoon, he popped round with a bag of windfalls from his apple tree. I certainly don’t regret telling his wife just how much I love baking. ‘Hello dear,’ he says with a smile. ‘Margot thought you might want these for a pie or something.’

My new Le Creuset Oval Pie Dish {c/o House of Fraser} was the perfect vessel in which to bake such a comforting, homely pud. I’ve shared nostalgic kitchen memories of this iconic French brand before, and I’ve fallen for their stoneware just as readily. Plum and Pecan Crumble

You will need:

{for the filling}

  • Approximately 1kg of plums
  • 30g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 2-4 tbsp light muscovado sugar, depending on sourness of fruit
  • 1 scant tbsp cornflour

{for the crumble topping}

  • 150g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 150g demerara sugar
  • 200g pecans, some chopped finely, some left larger or whole

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5 and put in a baking sheet.

2. Halve the plums and put them cut-side up in the dish. You may not need all of them, but squeeze in as many as will fit comfortably. Dot with the butter, sprinkle with sugar and place the uncovered dish in the oven for 20 minutes. You want the fruit’s juices to have run a little and the fruit itself to be moving towards tender.

3. While the plums are cooking, prepare the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour, either with your fingers {my preference} or in a free-standing mixer with the flat paddle. I’m inclined to agree with Nigella when she suggests the processor creates too fine a crumb. Fork the sugar and nuts into the crumble mixture, and set aside for a moment.

4. When the plums have had their time in the oven, pour some of the liquid into a small bowl in which you have placed the cornflour. Mix to a paste, then stir into the plum dish. Add the crumble topping, pressing down lightly around the edges, before placing the dish back on the baking sheet inside the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until the crumble is cooked and speckled golden-brown.

Trust me, this crumble makes everything better. What will you be baking this weekend? Tempted by plum and pecan?

Love Audrey xxx

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My weekend has mainly been spent…

Plum and pecan crumble Jesse in the park Izzy at the park The weekend

  • Waking up as Jesse clambered into our bed.
  • Wondering how much I’ll miss his tiny kisses and cuddles when he decides he’s too grown up for snuggling.
  • Lounging in bed while Mr. LA headed downstairs with the children.
  • Sipping tea and slowly waking up.
  • Eating a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.
  • Coaxing the children into their clothes.
  • Lingering in the shower.
  • Slipping on a pretty polka dot dress and my beloved Lotta from Stockholm Peep Toe Clogs. They’ve barely been off my feet since I bought them with my birthday money a few weeks ago. Definitely need them in every colour.
  • Walking to the bus stop in the rain.
  • Arriving in the city centre just as the clouds began to clear.
  • Picking up a pair of dungarees for Izzy. She’s been pining for a pair for as long as I can remember and I practically had to wrestle her out of them at bedtime this evening.
  • Buying trousers and stripy tops for Jess.
  • Grabbing a light lunch at Giraffe.
  • Lusting after the new scent from Jo Malone, Wood Sage and Sea Salt. It’s heavenly.
  • Spending a gift card in Space NK. My skin is thanking me for finally treating it to some hydrating serum.
  • Stocking up on boring bits and bobs at Wilkos.
  • Riding the bus back home.
  • Pottering in the kitchen while the children played and Mr. LA finished off a little DIY.
  • Turning 1kg of foraged fruit into plum and pecan crumble {recipe to follow}.
  • Feeding the children beans on toast.
  • Hiding downstairs while the evening routine descended into chaos.
  • Finally reading bedtime stories and giving good night kisses.
  • Drinking wine and eating dinner.
  • Climbing into bed and watching The Good Wife until I drifted off.
  • Sleeping in.
  • Relishing a slow, lazy start to the day.
  • Plotting a few finishing touches for the living room. I think we’re finally going to pull the trigger on a new rug and some additional lighting. Exciting!
  • Eventually getting our act together and wandering to the park in the sunshine.
  • Popping to the supermarket for supplies.
  • Strolling home via the playground.
  • Smiling when Jesse discovered his second wobbly tooth as he bit into his apple.
  • Smiling some more when he declared he would soon be rich thanks to the tooth fairy.
  • Eating lunch outside in the yarden.
  • Meal planning for the week ahead. The online shop always feels like such a chore, but I do like flicking through recipe books in search of inspiration.
  • Sorting laundry.
  • Cooking and eating Italian Roast Chicken with Peppers and Olives.
  • Demolishing the last of the crumble.
  • Putting Jesse to bed.
  • Working while Izzy read quietly on the sofa.
  • Typing this post as she sang along to Olly Murs’ music videos on YouTube.
  • Looking forward to an early night {and more episodes of The Good Wife. Season 5. I’m obsessed.}

Love Audrey xxx

A Summer Staycation at Bristol Mercure Holland House

Wallace and Gromit

In a little under two weeks it will have been an entire year since we moved to Bristol. I’d like to think we’re fairly well settled in our new home, but there are definitely times when I still feel like a tourist in my own city.

As the summer holidays drew to a close, we decided to embrace this by accepting the opportunity to indulge in a brief staycation at Mercure Bristol Holland House. Located just minutes from the vibrant harbourside, we were within walking distance of our favourite museum, Mshed, and the fabulous Wallace & Gromit From The Drawing Board exhibition. Mercure Bristol Holland House Mercure Bristol Holland House Mercure Bristol Holland House

After checking into our spacious family room, we headed out into the sunshine, strolling down to the waterfront beneath bright blue skies. We were so lucky with the weather! It rained solidly the following day. Bristol Harbourside

I really love this part of Bristol. There’s so much to see and do, including countless museums, the Arnolfini, and restaurants galore. We always enjoy the Harbourside Market too.

The Mshed was actually the first museum we visited after moving, which seems particularly fitting as it’s dedicated to telling the story of the city and its unique place in the world. Entrance is free and you’ll find rooms packed full of local curiosities and cultural artefacts. The children are big fans of the double decker bus parked on the ground floor!        Mshed Bristol Harbourside

For those of you that don’t know, Bristol is home to Aardman Animations. Their award winning Wallace & Gromit films seem to hold a special place in the hearts of many of the city’s residents. The children have always loved the hilarious stop motion double act, but after multiple visits to Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital during the summer, they’ve become even more important to us as a family.

Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, established in 1995, has raised over £27million for the institution, supporting a wide range of life-saving medical equipment, family accommodation, and patient comforts, along with a programme of arts, music, education and play facilities.

The characters feature heavily in the hospital decor, even announcing each floor as you arrive via elevator, so they were a source of great amusement for the children during what were otherwise quite stressful situations. {I’ll be honest, we were the ones that were stressed, so maybe seeing the kids smile just made things easier for us grownups.}   Wallace and Gromit Exhibition

The From the Drawing Board exhibition focuses on the story making process behind the award winning films. We all enjoyed seeing the intricate film sets and Izzy was particularly interested in scribbling and sketching her own story ideas.

Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal was established in 1995 and has since raised over £27 million to support a wide range of life-saving medical equipment, family accommodation, and patient comforts, along with a programme of arts, music, education and play facilities in the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. – See more at: http://www.grandappeal.org.uk/about-us/#sthash.6OQh8vcz.dpuf

Wallace and Gromit Exhibition

The £2.50 I spent on these masks in the gift shop was money well spent! The children wore them all the way back to the hotel while quoting well known lines from the films. I found it hilarious!

‘More cheese Gromit?’

‘We forgot the crackers!’ Wallce and Gromit

More than anything else, the children had been looking forward to trying the hotel pool, so after returning from the harbourside we let them spend an hour in the water. I always forget how exhausted kids are after swimming. For a while it was touch and go as to whether they’d stay awake for dinner!

Speaking of dinner, our meal in the hotel restaurant was incredible. It was one of those rare evenings where everything fell into place; the children’s behaviour, the food, the service. We enjoyed ourselves so much, I failed to take a single photo.

Mr. LA and I both ordered steak while the kids sampled the children’s menu. Jesse requested his sausage, beans and mash again at breakfast the next morning, so I think it’s fair to say the meal was a success in his eyes! Mercure Bristol Holland House

After another glass of wine in the hotel bar we retreated back upstairs to our room where we all slipped into our PJs and bundled into bed together to watch a film on my laptop. It felt pretty perfect, drifting off to sleep side-by-side.

Checkout wasn’t until lunchtime the following day. We had a leisurely morning with an enormous breakfast and a little TV before packing up and heading home.

A night away in our own city was such a great end to the school holidays and Mercure Bristol Holland House provided the perfect backdrop for our final summer adventure. I’d highly recommend it!

Have you ever holidayed in your own city? Did you enjoy a staycation this summer? We’re toying with visiting Bath during half term. Technically, it’s only down the road, but this trip has inspired us to keep things local when it comes to our next getaway!

Love Audrey xxx

We were guests of Mercure Bristol Holland House, but all opinions are my own and we’d go back again in a heartbeat!

Love Audrey Bakes ~ Blackberry Muffins

Blackberry Muffins

For the second year in a row, I turned some of our foraged fruit into these delicious blackberry muffins. In truth, I can never decide whether I prefer cake or crumble, so it’s a good job we picked enough berries for both!

Sourced from an ancient edition of the Waitrose magazine, this recipe ticks a lot of boxes for me in terms of my baking preferences. From the subtle mix of flavours to their delectable sweet, nutty topping, the muffins feel like a hug in cake form. Perfect if, like me, you need a little cheering up as we say goodbye to summer and ease ourselves into the end of the year. Blackberry Muffins

You will need:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 200ml buttermilk {I never, ever have buttermilk, so I find this handy list of substitutes indispensable}
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 225g blackberries
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds
  • 20g Demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Add the caster sugar and lemon zest and stir in gently.

2. Stir the egg, buttermilk and butter together thoroughly. Tip into the dry ingredients and mix lightly, then fold in the blackberries.

3. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases. Scatter on the toasted almonds and add a good pinch of Demerara sugar to each.

4. Bake for 25 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack.

I’ve said it before, but muffins really are ideal for baking with children. As the batter is lumpy and barely combined by design, you can’t go wrong. Here are some of the other muffins the children and I enjoy baking together:

Love Audrey xxx

Blackberry Picking

Blackberry Picking

In Exeter, our annual blackberry picking expedition only took us as far as the end of our road. There was an enormous bush growing wild, but its close proximity to the house, and the fact it felt like our little secret, always made those berries feel home grown.

The children and I were worried that moving to Bristol might mean the end of this particular tradition of ours. Instead, foraging is more of an adventure than ever before. Not only are there a handful of small bushes in the lanes surrounding our house, nearby Troopers Hill is bursting with berries.    Troopers Hill Bristol

Tucked away among the crowded streets of St George, we’ve really fallen for this little pleasure spot. The views over the city are pretty dreamy, and walking through the surrounding woods, it’s hard to believe you’re just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the main road.

There are trees to climb, a rope swing and plenty of opportunities for den building and daydreaming. In case you’re wondering, this is the face Izzy pulls when she spots a very hungry caterpillar… Caterpillar

This past weekend, we headed out into the sunshine and filled our little basket with almost 500g of fruit. We walked the length and breadth of the hill, strolled through the dappled light in the wood and wandered home with that wonderful, weary feeling of a morning well spent. Foraging at Troopers Hill, Bristol Blackberry Picking

The children and I spent the afternoon pottering in the kitchen, putting our foraged fruit to good use. There were muffins {pop back later for the recipe} and an apple and blackberry crumble. It would seem that stuffing myself full of seasonally appropriate baked goods is the only way I can make peace with summer’s sunset and the beginning of autumn.  Troopers Hill Bristol

You can see some of our previous adventures in blackberry picking here, here and here. What have you foraged lately?

Love Audrey xxx