Bike on an organised ride

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To mark the end of Bike Week 2013, Winchester held a Cyclefest event in the centre of town for all things bike related. We cycled in, registered our bikes with the Police, got some free Kendal mint cake and then took part in a very leisurely 6 mile bike ride.

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The ride started from outside the Guidhall, along the newly resurfaced National Cycle Network 23 to Hockley Viaduct and back. This was a family-suitable event so the pace was perhaps a little slow for our tastes, but we cycled home just the two of us a little more speedily.

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The route was tarmac-ed the whole way (good for my thin tyres!) and it was a lovely, dry day for it. I was actually quite glad it wasn’t overly warm as the ride would have been a lot less enjoyable!

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Please excuse the hideous quality of many of these photos. My camera was safely stowed in my panniers, so these were taken at speed using my phone whilst cycling one handed (safety first).

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We cycled out of the city centre along one of the many Itchen tributaries.

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Over the viaduct!

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Appropriate footwear?!

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Wildflowers were in full bloom- how gorgeous is that poppy?

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The viaduct makes a great viewpoint over the Itchen Valley

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Happy one more Bike Week Challenge is complete!

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Bike date

Another week goes by, another belated Bike Week challenge ticked off the list. This time? Bike date. When I planned the challenge I was thinking of combining this one with bike to the pub or bike into the countryside, but last week I came up with an idea that gives this one it’s very own post.

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Being the first day of the Tour de France, and with Mark Cavendish tipped to start the race in yellow, however nice the weather it was clearly going to be an afternoon for staying in so we made it an at home lunch date with a Tour de France picnic, Eurosport on the TV and a selection of TDF magazines.

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And what a stage it was! Orica-Greenedge managed to get their tour bus stuck under the finish banner (oops) and chaos ensued. I don’t think I can give a good enough description- have a look at the photo here. Following #busgate on Twitter was very, very entertaining, but the confusion led to several nasty crashes. 

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And what better way to follow up a summer picnic than with a bowl of home-grown (thanks Mum!) strawberries?

A Symphony of Flowers- Introduction

 

Earlier in June, Winchester Cathedral played host to a magnificent Floral installation. Flower Arrangement societies from across the South came together to invade the majesty of the church and complement it with their creations. I was expecting to be impressed before I visited, but I was totally blown away and have far too many photographs to prove it. This is the prelude to a ten part photographic series of my favourite installations, and by way of introduction, I will set the scene with a few of my favourite photographs of the cathedral itself.

 

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Look out for daily posts from 1st to 10th July, but I think you will agree that the Cathedral is a truly magnificent setting for such an exhibition. A quick disclaimer though- my photographs do not do the installations justice- they were absolutely unbelievable.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Lady for a Day

I became very ladylike earlier this month. Assisted by a lovely lady from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS), I took part in a workshop accompanying the Symphony of Flowers Event in Winchester Cathedral (more on that another day). The task? To create a floral cupcake arrangement in oasis to take home.

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There were several examples to use as inspiration, some very contemporary and almost geometric somehow.

 

 

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I knew that I wanted to create something more relaxed and natural in style, but when it came to choosing colours I had no idea. I picked out a few bits of foliage from the selection on offer, and when describing this to the lady helping me she said ‘something that looks like an English country garden?’- exactly. She managed to find the words that I couldn’t.

 

 

 

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I think I managed to achieve that aesthetic? This isn’t something I’d do very often, but I really enjoyed it as a one off. Plus, the arrangement made a beautiful addition to our kitchen table for a week or so. Gorgeous. Don’t you think they’d make ideal wedding centrepieces?

 

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How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Coddled? Bet you didn’t think of that answer!

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I first came across the idea of coddled eggs when I read about the little containers you cook them in when flicking through The Vintage Tea Party Book in a nearby tea rooms. The author of the book had bought them originally to use as jam pots, which I think is a lovely idea- the little ceramic cups would add a pretty touch to an afternoon tea table. But, onto their proper use- simply lightly grease the inside of the coddler- I give it a quick spritz with one of those cooking oil sprays- add the egg, put the lid on tightly and submerge in a pan of boiling water.

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I’ve got two single egg poachers and one double one which you can see in the pan above. In terms of timings, 6 mins is perfect for a soft yolk using the single coddlers, but as for the double one, I’m yet to perfect the timing! Once the timing is up, remove carefully (I slide a knitting needle through the loops on the lids) as they will be very hot, and carefully wrap in a tea towel to remove the lids without burning yourself.

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I then like to season the eggs, and enjoy. Perfect with some fresh asparagus spears for dipping. The effect is basically similar to a boiled egg, but the little containers keep the eggs perfectly warmed on the plate, and I think the white has a more even texture- less overdone on the outside, if that makes sense?

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Where to find these little gems? I picked up my two little ones in a charity shop and I’ve seen them many times in lots of different ones- just have a rummage through the home ware shelves in your local charity shops. The large one was inherited from my Grannie and I’ve not really seen them on sale so far. Vintage fairs or Ebay would be another good place to try and pick them up, but much more expensive- I think mine were a couple of pounds.

I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere you can also use them in the oven, so that idea is next on my hit list…

New love: Red lips

This week saw the return of the madness surrounding the Rihanna collaboration with MAC cosmetics.

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Here is an example of hype and how I was dragged into it. I’ve always wanted to be able to pull off a red lip, but never know where to start with choosing a shade. One of the often mentioned all time classic red lipsticks is Ruby Woo by MAC. When I saw that Rihanna had reworked the shade for her MAC collaboration- to the aptly named Riri Woo my interest was piqued. Then, I read that she had designed the shade with a group of friends and aimed to suit all skin tones, I was even more tempted. Throw in a matte finish and I was sold.

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I bought this shade on it’s first release back in May and it took me until last Thursday to work up the courage to wear it. I’d swatched it on my hand many a time and briefly tried it on the lips but never felt brave enough to give it a real go. Given the social network mania that ensued with the release of the Summer Riri Hearts MAC collection, I figured it was time to give this a real go. I wore this for a few hours. Granted, I didn’t leave the house, but come on- baby steps, yeah? Do you know what, I loved it! I didn’t feel like me and it took me totally out of my comfort zone but yep- next time I head out on a night out (read a couple of drinks in the pub) I may well crack this one out. Watch this space.

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Pasta Alla Norma

A new favourite, super easy recipe that is really addictive. We’ve had this about 4 times over the past month or so- thanks Mr Oliver! As this makes enough for 4, we tend to make the whole lot and then it’s good to reheat the sauce with more pasta another day. I’ve not tried freezing it but I can’t see why half the sauce wouldn’t freeze well.

Ingredients (for 4)- 2 Aubergines, dried oregano, 2 jars passata, 3 cloves garlic (or adjust to taste- this is pretty garlicky!), crushed chilli flakes, olive oil, red wine vinegar (we used white wine vinegar and it was fine), salt and pepper, basil (ideally but I forgot to pick some up this week) and parmesan or similar hard cheese to serve.

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Chop aubergines by slicing into quarters lengthwise, removing the seedy centres and then slicing into finger sized pieces. Fry these in a good glug of olive oil and a few teaspoons of oregano until soft and golden, then remove from the pan.

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Whilst the aubergines are cooking, get the pasta going. We tend to eat this with spaghetti, but go for whatever you prefer. This spaghetti measurer is a revelation– perfect portions every time.

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Add a little more oil, fry the chopped garlic (I pureed mine on one of these. Add the passata, dried chilli and a splash of red wine vinegar. Simmer. Add the cooked aubergines back to the pan and heat through. Season and add the torn basil once heated.

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Once the pasta is cooked, drain and mix through the sauce. Serve with grated cheese of your choice. I’ve gone for a hard goat’s cheese here, but parmesan, pecorino or cheddar would also be good. Enjoy with a good glass of wine.

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Recipe adapted from Jamie’s Italy- yet to try a recipe from this book that isn’t easy to follow and delicious.

A Perfect Summer Lunch

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A bowl full of fresh veggie goodness- mixed salad leaves, chopped baby carrots and beets (raw, skin on)- look at that colour.

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Add in a handful of lightly steamed asparagus (a poached egg would be perfect but I was all out), and top with a vinaigrette dressing (I used apple and elderflower vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper all shaken together) and you’re good to go.

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Looking for something a bit more filling? Add in toasted granary bread, spread generously with smoked trout pate. I got this from the local farmers’ market and it is absolutely delicious. All the tastes of summer in one meal.

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Any other recommendations for simple, colourful and fresh lunches?