Lake Como

A few days away in the sun


North Wales


North Wales: Conwy,  Llandudno and Snowdon



Devon holiday snaps! 

Australia 2016

Excuse us while we share a few snaps from our adventure down under...




Scottish Museum, Calton Hill, Musselburgh, AirBnb & Botanic Gardens | Edinburgh


A year ago we we're soaking up all the joy of Uganda. 
We can't express how beautiful this place is, so we'll let the pictures speak for themselves.


Please excuse us while we post our holiday snaps...

A few lazy days for us in Italy. 
(The best bits: the views from Parco del Cardeto, a seafood platter at Rosa, a little Airbnb and a bus ride to Sirolo)

Ancona, Italy

The Barcelona Birthday

We are in love with this city. If you want any of our recommendations (for pintxos, brewpubs, sees or stays: hit us up with a message)


The Chines

We spent a few days on the south coast with some good friends to see in the new year. Here's a few shots we took during a walk along the Bournemouth Chines. Malc used to come here on holidays when he was little. It's nice to see not too much has changed.



The moments and memories that capture our best bits and favourite folks of 2014.

Thanks for making it so much fun!
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A little taste of Uganda...

Far too busy seeing, hearing, tasting and feeling so much stuff for blogging. But here's some photos to whet your appetite for the deluge of photos you'll be seeing once we get back! 

Kampala, Uganda

We're off to Uganda!

The flights are booked, so its official- we're going to Uganda in November for two weeks!

We'll be working with Kids Club Kampala trying to document their work and photograph lots of their projects. We're really excited. You might have seen our photos from the Ewafe- Raising the Roof gig back in May - we can't wait to see that very roof... and the entire house as some of its first residents move in.

If you'd like to help our fundraising efforts you can donate here: give.net/nomandmalcloveKCK

All photos by Kids Club Kampala... until we get to take some of our own.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens


Loch Lomond

Please excuse us while we flaunt a few of our holiday snaps from Scotland. We had a few days around Loch Lomond staying in a little cottage in the woods. It was bonnie.



Snow in New York City

Here's to a white Christmas!

Merry Christmas & a Happy 2014 
love nom & malc

Photos from our recent trip to NYC,  more to come soon!

Paris Part 4: Life in Paris


Paris Part 3: Art In Paris

By: Jason Rhoades, Claude Rutault, Joseph Beuys, Yves Saint Laurent & Rodin.

Paris Part 2: Beaux Bâtiments


Paris Part 1: Les Parisienes


Last Weekend

We were explorers of the urban countryside with Fran & Matt.


What we saw in Rome


Dreaming of... A Trip to the Beach

This month we're dreaming of a trip to the seaside. Hopefully Southwold!

Last time we went was in 2007, with Malc's family. This time we might get to take our twin cousins, who're two. Sandcastles, ice creams and a pint of Adnams- Yes please!


Birthday Camping


Dreaming of.... Camping

from utterlyengaged.com via pinterest
We're daydreaming about a little break: camping in the countryside, in the springtime. Fingers crossed we'll go over Nom's birthday, and there'll be little lambs, daffodils, birds singing in the trees... We'll see. 
Anyone got any tips? What should we pack, what should we plan? 

Luxurious 'essentials': bunting, a torch, a little cosy tent, a warm hat,
wooly socks, candles,  double sleeping bag and hot water bottles
Eating & Drinking. For the perfect drinks: our favourite mugs, a cafetiere,
a bottle of rioja, a flask for soup, a hand grinder and a volcano kettle.
For snacking: caramel hot chocolate, croissants, cup-a-soups, tinned fruits
and variety cereal packs.

The last time we went camping was in Busselton, Western Australia. It was at least 35˚C and by the warm, blue sea. However, the average max temperature for April in the UK is more like 12˚ (and this March was the coldest for 50 years!). Are we mad?

P.S ARGH, how utterly sick in my stomach does this make me feel?!




#14: Your officiant will guide you through

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

Understandably you're nervous about the ceremony- it's a big deal. But there's no need to worry about where to stand, what to say or when to say it. The officiant at your ceremony will be in charge of making sure that you move, say and do what you should at the right time. Your job is to turn up and mean it. If you get it wrong they'll make sure you say it again or prompt you to guide you through.

#13: Make the most of your guests

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our wedding was having all the people we loved gathering together in one place. That's where this tip comes from. Often loads of your favourite people will travel miles to be with you on a day when you'll largely be quite busy trying to see so many people that you don't get to properly hang out with any of them. 

So I'd say try and plan in times to hang out in the days around the wedding. Get people together to help do any last minute Order of Service folding, or setting up decorations at the reception. They'll love being involved

It might take some planning to be ready enough to be able to stop for the evening before the wedding, but a rehearsal meal type gathering is a good time to enjoy the company of great friends instead of rushing around stressing. Let them tell you how excited they are.

And the morning after the wedding getting together for a late breakfast is great fun. Inspect each others dancing blisters and share the stories from the day before. 

#12: Change things

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

Recently a Bride (who I wont name here- so she can 'fess up to her mum herself!) wasn't quite happy with how her bouquet had turned out from the florist. There was some foliage she hadn't planned on including- so we got some scissors and chopped a few sprigs out. Didn't make a huge difference, I dont think anyone noticed... but you bet she'd have been bugged by it looking back at her photos for years to come.

In the same ilk if something isn't how you wanted it then ask to have it changed. Bare in mind though how much effort it will take to change it, and how much time is available- no bridezillaing needed!

#11: Say "Goodbye!"

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

Its been a long emotional day and their baby daughter has just flown the nest. It's no wonder the parents often end up in tears at the end of the night. One thing that really helps: make sure you say a really good goodbye. Take time to talk to both sets of parents before the announcement is made that you're leaving (and you get swamped by other guests). 

There are loads of other fun ways to say goodbye to everyone, we've seen plenty of tunnels, confetti, sparklers even special dances which allow you to greet each of your guests.

#10: Cut your Cake

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

To add to our tip on flaunting your cake, here are a few notes on how to cut it...

Just do it! Stop worrying about how to line up your hands to hold the knife perfectly and just get on with it. Put an arm round each other, that will leave less hands to find knife space for.

Cut the cake at an angle to your audience: not as far round as being side on, but not hiding behind it either.

Move any nearby candles. We learnt this at our own wedding- the surrounding tea lights were pretty hot.

Eat a slice, feed each other a slice or hand some out to your guests. It doesn't matter what you do but don't just stand there looking a bit lost or leave the knife in the cake- it just looks a bit sinister!

Enjoy! (and share some with Nom, she's addicted to the icing)

#9: Flaunt your Cake

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

Give your cake pride of place. Displaying it during the afternoon while you're eating your wedding breakfast will not only give everyone to have a good look and get their mouths watering, it will also mean its in a good position when it comes to cutting it later.

If you asked the person who crafted your cake they usually say they cake should be away from the window and out of a draught. The photographer will want it in a well light area, free from signs in the background. Its good to have plenty of space for all your friends to get round you and take their own pictures too!

As far as Malc's concerned, cutting the cake is a bit of a bizarre thing to do. Why do we get everyone to gather round as we pretend to cut a cake? Why do we try to do it together and pause to kiss for the cameras? He reckons if you're going to do it you should go right on and cut the whole thing up in to pieces for your guests to eat!

Where does the tradition come from? Apparently Roman grooms used to smash the cake over the bride's head to symbolise her virginity. But the idea of sharing out bits of the cake goes back to a tradition of passing crumbs of cake through the bride's wedding ring as a symbolic gift of fertility. Well... now you know.

#8: Throw Confetti

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

It's the only day in your life you can get away with being showered with love in the form of confetti- so get on with it. Get everyone involved, especially the aunties and old ladies they're always the most keen. 

Other things you can only really get away with on your wedding day: 
-the big white dress
-choosing who's in your team (your bridesmaids and ushers, and your other supporters and suppliers)
-choosing a guest list of everyone you want
-the menu

South Wales: Part 1

We went on an adventure to South Wales to take a peek at the Christmas lights in Swansea and Cardiff. Mostly we shopped and bought a tun of Christmas presents, but we also took some photos- so here they are.  

P.S Check out Nom's slightly freaked-out face on the ferris wheel! 


#6: Little Ones

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

Having some of the smaller members of your family involved in your ceremony can be a very sweet and personal touch. But try not to stress about them performing perfectly- there's very little they can do that would actually ruin your day. To keep things in perspective: 
- allow them to practise, but don't stress out about timings
- try to encourage the adults not to make too big a deal of it (this way they wont know there's anything to be nervous of).
-having a special job, like sprinkling flowers, can be a good thing to focus on and feel important.
-go with the flow! If a ring bearer ducks out at the last minute it wont matter. 

One of the cutest flower girls we saw this year didn't want to let go of her Daddy's hand, so he walked down the aisle with her. It wasn't planned, but it was very sweet.

#5: Mr & Mrs

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

A quirky piece of wedding themed etiquette: salt and pepper are considered a married couple! And as such should always be passed up and down the table as a pair. Especially romantic to remember this at a wedding.

#7: Make space

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

If you want beautiful, bright fresh photos of you getting ready in the morning then put a little bit of thought into where you'll get ready. If possible get dressed in a room that is more than big enough for you, the big white dress and anyone you want around to help. Consider space for the photographer and the amount of light available. Removing unnecessary clutter is a good idea too!

This also applies to the rest of the day, though you might have less control over what goes where. Think through what clutter can be removed and what's around the key areas you'll be having photos. Are there ugly signs or posters in the ceremony venue that could be removed or hidden? Keep the top table uncluttered particularly of tall bottles or flowers which could obscure faces during the speeches. 


#4: Don't be Shy

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

You've just got married for goodness sake, you're wedding is the one day where you should drop your usually strict ban on PDAs and show how much you're in love. Holding hands, kissing, whispering and giggling all strongly recommended.

#3: Flexible Friends

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

There's advice floating around on wedding websites that says you should plan as though 10% of your wedding invitations will be declined. Which probably means you're safe to invite more people than you can seat or afford to pay for. What's less predictable is the number of people who wont make it at the last minute because they're ill or something comes up.

You could spend your last few days of preparations on the phone to your caterer and venue updating them on meal numbers and seating plans, but my advice would be to consider who else you could invite. Sure you might not have known them long, but new friends or colleagues would love an invite and if you'd love them there then why not? It might even be that on the day people turn up for the ceremony without being invited who you're delighted to see. So be flexible, enjoy their company and show them to their seat.

Their name might not be on the table plan, but I don't reckon they'll mind.

There's a clever little trick for working out your table plan on this website.

#2: One for the Groom

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

This tip is something we over heard from a vicar: when standing at the front awaiting your bride you should either turn to face her as soon as the music begins or wait facing front until she is beside you. It looks smarter than taking the occasional peek back over your shoulder.

What do you think ladies? I way prefer the first option!

#1: Belly Button Thumb

Even the cake was in tiers is our series tips for weddings. The title comes from an overused and not so funny wedding speech joke, "It's been an emotional day...". What advice did you wish someone had told you before your wedding? We're collating all the etiquette and expertise here.

We must have mentioned this to each of our brides; because its something to focus on in the most nervous minute of the big day. As you walk down the aisle make sure your thumb is inline with your belly button, which will make sure your flowers are at the right height. It'll help you to have something to think about, something to hold and stop you looking really nervous with your flowers hiding your face! 

If you're having an unusually shaped bouquet you might want to ask your florist how best to hold it, after all they designed it so they'll know what they had planned. And if its inspiration you're after then check out this Pinterest board from Conservatorie Floral, a Florida Florist who've pinned some amazing bouquets. 


Even the cake was in tiers

We finished our last wedding of the year and realised we'd picked up a lot of tips just by being around so many brides. So we're jotting them down, care to browse? Some of them are useful at every wedding, others are more personal.

The name comes from a too often repeated wedding speech joke. "It's been an emotional wedding..."

What's been the most helpful tip in your planning, or what did you learn at your wedding that you wish someone had told you?



The Coast
At Brighton




Art Bus

The Art Bus
Free coach tours of Birmingham art galleries. Calling at: Barber Institute, mac, IKON, RBSA, Eastside Projects






Jeff, 23
Climbing Mount Torre

Spring in Shrewsbury


A postcard from GB

To our dear friends from Perth (and other globetrotters),

Thank you for having us to stay! We had such fun exploring your streets, dipping in your pools, talking to your dogs and sizzling sausages.

Now isn't about time we returned your generosity? 

In an effort to persuade you we've put together this little tour of the UK, a dream team itinerary, as a pledge of good hostmanship. We hope it'll wet your appetite.

(If you're here for a while check out the whole list, if you've only got a short stop check out the comments marked with an asterisk*.)

What to do in the UK...

Visit Scotland: In Edinburgh* theres the Jenners department store, the Castle (with the military tattoo), the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art to fill your day. Of course you couldn't miss out Linlithgow*- home of your Scottish friends, which has its own beautiful Palace and Loch (see your first white swans!). If there at the right time don't miss the marches. Take a long drive and two ferries to isolation on Iona, theres a monastery surrounded by purple and turquoise sea (you can easily walk round the whole island in a few hours). See your first ever snow and ski on it in the Cairngorms. Kayak on a loch and spot some highland cows. Make sure you drink IRN BRU, eat tablet*, haggis, an Oliphant's pie and at least one insane thing deep-fried in Glasgow. Finish with a cultural turn up for the books in Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art.

Have a long weekend drifting around the countryside on a canal boat. And make sure you see at least one dramatic waterfall and one fast flowing river.

Go to London to see the Queen (and Corinne!*), go to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels (you can have a really quick visit for free if you go round as they lock up), see art in Trafalgar Square and the Serpentine gallery or swim in the Serpentine lake. Top up on art in the Saatchi Gallery, the V&A, the Tate galleries and eat lunch in the Turbine Hall*. Watch a show in the West End, Shakespeare at the Globe and sneak a peek at a celebrity on the red carpet at Leicester Square. Go to the Natural History Museum, the Imperial War Museum and see the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. Glimpse grandeur in Westminster Cathedral and St Paul's, or watch MPs in The Houses of Parliament. You should probably check out the Liberty's building to compare it to Perth's imitation, London Court. While you're at Liberties you might as well go in for a spot of shopping, and while you're in the mood Oxford street* is a must see (Topshop for Bee and Moo). Get a Boris bike and crash London fashion week. But don't go in the Thames

There are loads of special events to see too, depending on when you're in London, the Oxford/Cambridge boat race, The BBC Proms, Pride Marchesthe State Opening of Parliament, Chinese New Year or the Trooping of the Colour to name but a few.... oh yeh, and there's the Olympics.

In London enjoy the Tube (its fun when you're not in a rush) then take the Megabus to another city for £1.

Stop a while in Birmingham: Go to the Bullring markets and a vintage fair at the Custard Factory. See a show at the REP or a film at the  Electric Cinema (and text your waiter your order for olives from your sofa seating). Have a curry in the Balti Triangle* and experience a proper pub lunch. Meet the pre-raephelites in the BMAG, something more contemporary in the IKON or something less famous in one of the Digbeth galleries. Taste Cadbury's without the wax at its home in Bourneville and check out the canals. Meet our friends and picnic in Sutton Park

In Wales you could stay in a bothy to experience the countryside up close and personal. Take a visit a Welsh revival chapel and some of our favourite beaches around Abersoch. Eat a Cadwaladers, do some wake boarding in the cold sea, warm up with a bonfire on the beach. Then see the heights of Snowdon on your way back to England.

The following deserve at least a mention: Brighton (ride a carousel at the end of the pier, its a family tradition of ours), Cornwall (the best clotted cream and amazing art in St Ives), the Lake District (has lots of lakes), the Cotswolds (have pretty cottages with yellow stone walls and thatched roofs), Bristol (is an environmentally aware city, with a hippy vibe and cool goings on) and Blackpool (for tacky souvenirs and the blackpool illuminations).

This completes our list of recommendations for a visit to the UK (this list is not conclusive). 
Please come and see us soon,        
With love
Coz, Nom & Malc                              

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Eight hours in Dubai?

You're booking you flights from somewhere to somewhere with a change in Dubai, the flight company gives you the option of spending a few hours in the city to explore. What should you do?

For us it turned out that 8 hours wasn't very long in Dubai, especially after we'd figured out passport control and getting out of the airport, but it was long enough for us to see all we wanted. So here are our tips:

- Convert your currency to Dirhams before you fly. We got ours while we were waiting for boarding time in the previous airport. How much you'll need obviously depends on what you've got planned, but food seemed reasonably priced and transport (especially by taxi) was cheap.

-Know your visa situation. It seems most countries don't need to get one in advance, but UK citizens don't need one at all. If you do need one you can cue at the airport: there are separate cues for men and women (when we were there the woman's cue was much faster and it took about 30 mins). If you have British passport go straight to passport control.

-Speaking of passport control and going straight to it, we found the airport really confusing. Plan to get off the plane and ask someone for directions to passport control straight away. Then follow their first direction and ask another person once you've done that, thereby doing the journey one step at a time. There are loads of staff in blue t-shirts who seem to be hanging around for this purpose but no signposts.

-Once you're cleared to leave head for the metro, which stops right outside the exits. We just asked the guy in the ticket booth what we needed to get us where we wanted to go, sorted. There are women only carriages, but women can stick with their men in the other carriages if they wish (be warned there are few women in these other carriages).

-The metro had awesome views of the city so its a good way to get around. An there are two announcements of each stop (only slightly repetitive!) so no need to worry about forgetting to get off at your stop. It stops at many of the major malls and attractions, and if its not close enough the taxis are easy and cheap.

As for what to see...
theres the world's tallest building
the palms or the world (man made "islands" shaped as their names suggest)
shopping malls (and a festival of shopping)

And if you decide not to get the extra hours in between flights you might like to know that Dubai Airport is reportedly the world's best duty free.

Shrewsbury Train Station


Shrewsbury Train Station


Dear Aussies, We miss you!

Its been 6 weeks since our 6 weeks in Aus: about time we wrapped some things up I think! So this week we've got a few posts planned about our time in Perth, Dubai and then something a little closer to home. Hope you enjoy them.


Dunorlan Park


Hay's Galleria

Hay's Galleria, Near London Bridge Train Station

Terminal 3 Metro Station


Airport Terminal 3 Metro Station, 7:45 AM

The Drive Down


The drive down to Busselton, WA

2011 in 12 Photos

There were some mighty lows, but I think on average 2011 turned out to be a beautiful year made/redeemed by its sunshine and heroes.

We saw the year in with some of our favourite people in one our favourite places, Mid Wales.

On Valentine's day we got two new relatives in the form of Charlie and Ella.

Malc got to see where I grew up when we spent a week with my uncle Gav in Scotland.

The death of my hero brought many more out of the woodwork.

We drank champagne to celebrate Mum's fiftieth birthday in London.

We joined Jon '22 Ton' Harris, Pete, Abi, and crew on a voyage from Northampton to Milton Keynes.

There was face painting, a BBQ, and a ton of cake at the fantastic Short Heath Community Fun Day.

We experienced the madness of beach mission, and the thrill of two great weddings.

We witnessed exceptional dancing and made several new friends at Tom and Anna's wedding.

We went exploring and photographing the hidden delights of Birmingham with Charlie- Rose and Joe.

Accompanied by our new camera, we celebrated our anniversary in the Cotswolds.

We had several early Christmases with friends and family before a second summertime...

... but that's a story for 2012.
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Planet Melbourne

Ten places or things worth a visit in Melbourne...

1 Fed Square

Federation Square (or simply 'Fed Square' as it's known locally) was designed as a cultural and social hub for Melbourne. It sits close to the National Gallery of Victoria, the fantastic south bank food court, the Arts Centre and the Melbourne Theatre Company. It also houses a performance venue, multiple fun-looking eateries and bars, and the NGV's national collection. Apparently it's a bit of a Marmite (or should that be Vegemite) in that people seem to love or hate it. We are lovers.

2 Trams

... are everywhere in Melbourne. An integral part of the transport system, you can pay for one ticket that takes you into the city on a train, then gets you on trams once you're there. Mostly people use them to hop from one end of the road to the other, which, as we discovered, is probably the most sensible thing to do. We took the 109 from Balwyn on our first trip into the city, but could've cycled it faster! On the upside, there's a free City Link tram that circles the city centre. It uses old-style trams that look as if they've seen a journey or two.

3 Royal Exhibition Hall

Probably more spectacular than the hall itself is the surrounding Carlton Gardens, one of the city's numerous large green areas, all of which are worth your time. The flower beds are special, littered with Bird of Paradise flowers, which we are struggling to grow in the UK.

4 Eureka Tower

The tallest tower in Melbourne allows you to go (nearly) all the way to the top, using probably the fastest lift in the city. The 88th floor Skydeck is pretty spectacular: there are windows all the way round the tower, allowing you a 360 view of Melbourne, and a small, caged, open air section where you can watch the intense wind blow your ticket into the distance and mothers hold tight to small children. I enjoyed the scrolling lcd screens that showed fun local facts like: 'EVERY DAY 90 TONS OF DOG POO IS LEFT ON THE STREETS OF MELBOURNE'.

5 Queen Victoria Market

Much like our own Bull Ring Markets, the QV has a handsome range of fresh meat, seafood, and fruit and veg stands, alongside lots of suspiciously cheap clothes and other goods. Malc was pleased to find a spice stall that sold tea by weight for less than T2 (a nice chain of high street tea shops). He bought some Turkish Apple instant tisane, which rubs its smell onto anything it touches.

6 Hoiser Lane

The back streets in Melbourne have a reputation for their graffiti. We checked out Hoiser Lane and were not disappointed.

7 Fitzroy Gardens

A walk through these gardens includes a variety of experiences. We spotted three wedding parties, Captain Cooke's Cottage, people meditating, an orchid-filled greenhouse, the old treasury building and plenty of greenery. We couldn't find the fairy tree, but then again we had no idea what we were looking for.

8 The Art Centre

We didn't intend on spending much time in this landmark building. When we popped in to try and find a good cup of coffee  it seemed mostly to be fully of theatre goers. We did stumble upon an impressive exhibition about a famous Aussie cross-dresser.

9 T2

It might not get a mention on the tourist guides but this is a tea shop worth a visit if you like tea even half as much as Malcolm does.

10 The Nicholas Building

We visited to see a temporary shop set up for Christmas by Melbournia, and we were glad we eventually found the whole place. Many of the building's original details have remained: stained glass, arched ceilings, an old style post box and two manned lifts. The lift operators tell us that they are soon be replaced by a less exciting standard lift. After the end of January those lifts will be a much lonelier experience.


Puffing Billy

"Puffing Billy  is a genuine relic of more leisurely days. An historic steam train still running regularly in the mountain district it was built to serve at the turn of the century. The Railway is the major survivor of four experimental lines used to develop rural areas in the early 1900s. Puffing Billy is now a major tourist attraction, its operation depending on hundreds of dedicated volunteers."


The Runway


The runway, Birmingham International Airport, BHX

C-to the-Otswolds

For our anniversary Malc planned a trip to the Cotswolds. It was a top secret destination, I found out where we were going after we'd left the house (the details were written in a book he'd made for us to record our trip in).

We road tripped around the Cotswolds stopping at: Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, Bretforton, Ebrington and Evesham. The car was stocked up with various sugary snacks and quality tunes. When the sun shone we walked around and took photos, when it rained we walked around and took less photos, and when it was really foggy we stayed in the car, picnicked and took photos non the less.

We stayed in Chipping Campden, at The Chance, which was rather smashing. (All it takes is a good breakfast to convince Malc. Day 1: fried toast, cooked tomato, mushroom, black pudding, bacon and sausage). We ate out in the town twice, at Michael's (calves liver, kleftico, baklava and white chocolate cheese cake) and Caminetto (scallops, calamares, cannelloni and stuffed pasta). And bought fresh bread and fine wine.

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Photo: Caro Embrey

We've just booked flights to Australia over Christmas and the New Year.

We've just booked our tickets for 6 weeks of fun, so we're on the look out for your recommendations! Where should we go, what could we eat and which photos should we get? We're having some time in Melbourne, before going to Somers for a family Christmas and then flying to friends in Perth after New Year.

Manda's Mystery Tour

Our mystery tour landed in our Wales from Wales- the only Cadwalader's Ice Cream outlet outside of Wales. We spent the afternoon in Trentham Gardens

Thanks Manda Moo!
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Bangor, Northern Ireland

While we were in Ireland for Tim and Amy's wedding we managed to grab a morning to explore the town of Bangor.


Hurrah for a holiday!

We hit the Grand Union Canal with 7 lovely people and 69 feet of Narrow Boat Joy and took on the wild waters between Weedon Bec and Great Linford. We played bananagrams, ate cooked breakfasts, pulled off some amazing manoeuvres, read books, got sunburnt, held baby animals, moored up, fed ducks, ate out, ate on, ate in and ate ate ate. And Malc navigated all 2,813 m of the Blisworth Tunnel with just one little bump.

Between busy times of intense relaxation we found time for a spot of food experimentation in the form of: lamb and mint kebabs, stewed strawberries, lavender champagne and some more elderflower cordial.

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We've been away...

... shooting another wedding. It was great fun- can't wait to share it, so expect a sneaky preview coming up shortly.

Bring on the 'Shine

Summer Goals 2011

make wicked ice cream 
(get the ice cream maker "back")
go camping
make ice lollies 
do some photo cools
    -more pics of people
    -at least one family shoot
go for nightly walks
listen to the book of the week
cycle for a picnic
listen to an album
visit lots of friends
make good use of the garage
wear good clothes
go swimming
have a dress date
grow some of the grow list (lambs lettuce, mushrooms, lavender...)
have lots of dinner guests
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[Menu Thoughts] Picnic

On Tuesday we cycled to Rookery Park for a picnic treat on one of Nom's days off. It took us around 10 minutes to get there, as we're only round the corner. It's a great little park that's usually quiet in my experience and contains an old, disused stately home.

The line-up for the picnic was as follows:

Mini steak and ale pies in shortcrust pastry
Red pesto hummus with carrot dippers
Boiled eggs
Pasta salad with oil, cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil 
A bottle of Crabbie's boozy ginger beer

This was mainly a very quick meal to make, most of which I threw together using ingredients we had available during the hour before we left home. The pies took longest; I cooked them whilst preparing the other bits, though I'd made all the components a couple of days in advance so they'd be a surprise for Nom.

The pie recipe:


The filling:
(NB: I 'eyed' this one and I can't remember how much steak was in the pack, so you'll have to do the same if you're attempting to make it)

Braising steak
Ale (I used some leftover home brew - a first attempt batch which was so bitter people struggled to drink it neat - so it doesn't need to be expensive or even 'good')
Veg stock (I made mine with an OXO cube)
One not-too-finely chopped onion
One chopped carrot
Gravy powder/granules (around 3 tbsp)

The shortcrust pastry:
I found this webpage very useful. In fact, I used their '9" pastry case' recipe. It worked and I'd recommend it.

Plain flour (8oz)
Butter or substitute spread (2oz)
Lard (2oz)
Cold water (3/4 tsp)
Pinch of salt

The method:

1. Assuming the steak isn't frozen, cut it into small cubes (small enough to fit comfortably into a mouthful of mini pie) and seal them in an open pressure cooker over a medium heat.
2. Throw in everything else but the gravy powder. As a guide to how much liquid to use, try to cover all the solid ingredients.
3. Pop the lid on, get the cooker up to full pressure and cook for 25 minutes, or as long as your manufacturer recommends.
4. Release the pressure and take the lid off. Once the steam has subsided sufficiently for you to get near the mixture, add the gravy powder and whisk it in to avoid lumps.

1. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. It's probably a good idea to sieve the flour.
2. Use a knife to cut the butter and lard into smaller and smaller cubes, creating more and more surface area for the flour to stick to.
3. Once you've done all the cutting you can reasonably do, cream the mixture together with a wooden spoon. Add the water at this point to make the mixture less stiff. Do this a teaspoon at a time, as you don't want it to become too moist and runny.

Your pies can be made there and then. After rolling out the pastry I moulded some of it into pie bases in a cupcake tray, added a small quantity of filling to each, then made flat, circular lids from the leftover pastry and pressed them onto the bases. The pies take around 30 minutes to cook at 200 degrees centigrade. As I didn't want my pies straight away I froze the filling and refrigerated the pasty in a big ball for a couple of days. Shortcrust pastry is supposed to last for three days in a fridge. 

The rest of the picnic:

As I said earlier, this was simply made of what we have in our kitchen. The carrot dippers were two carrots chopped into longs strips, the red pesto hummus was a ramekin-full of shop-bought hummus with two teaspoons of shop-bought red pesto mixed in, the pasta salad was very much as it sounds - I cut the cheddar and tomatoes up quite small and used thai basil as well as ordinary basil - and the boiled eggs were erm... eggs, boiled for four and a half minutes (medium boiling time for a medium sized egg).


the SCOTTISH holiday

Nathan Coley, There Will Be No Miracles Here, 2006
During our trip to Scotland we stayed at my Uncle Gav's house in Polmont near Falkirk, which proved a good point to travel to and from and a very hospitable home in which to stay.

During our stay we looked at some galleries, such as...

The Modern Art Galleries of Scotland 

Clockwise left to right: the plinth for Reclining Figure Henry Moore; metal sculpture, artist unknown; Nom outside the Dean Gallery and Work no. 975 EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT Martin Creed.

We enjoyed a lot of the work, particularly the permanent sculpture pieces in the gallery gardens, August Sander's marathon People of The 20th Century collection (made all the more impressive as the prints were taken directly from the photographer's negatives) and other individual works by the likes of Emin, Creed, Hatoum, Munch and Lucas. Curiously, the grounds of The Dean Gallery contains a small patch of allotments with no obvious connection to the gallery itself (organic veg for the café perhaps...?) Simultaneously secluded, rural, cultured and urban, we both agreed we could think of no place more interesting to grow produce.

Talbot Rice
This Edinburgh University gallery (which is in their Old College building) was showing a retrospective Rosemarie Trockel exhibition. We were both impressed by the provision of such a large and seemingly well-staffed gallery space within a university, although we were also bemused by the lack of obvious themes in Trockel's work and found it hard to engage with.

On our meandering route to the Talbot Rice Gallery we came across the small but intense Stills gallery. They were showing the second part of Social Documents: The Ethics Encounter, an unsettling collection of photographs and films around the theme of 'war, sex and political urgency'. The pieces were sometimes uncomfortably close to the exhibition's remit: to include material exploring the 'murkier waters' around the ethical codes imposed on more conventional documentary and investigative photography. Dani Marti's 'post-coital portraits' were particularly near the knuckle. The exhibition also included the very timely My Neck is Thinner than a Hair: Engines by The Atlas Group, 100 pictures collated from Lebanese archives of engines found near the scenes of car bombs during it's civil war of 1975-91. We like the overall operation of the gallery: an experimental and theoretically-minded approach to exhibiting photographs.

We ate and drank in some great places...

Amore Dogs
We'd read about Amore Dogs (and it's sister restaurant The Dogs) online before we went north. It didn't disappoint: tasty, decent portions of simple but well made Italian food for reasonable prices - so reasonable in fact that Uncle Gav didn't quite trust the menu until the bill had been paid.

Our namesake company sells itself as an established essential food outlet in Edinburgh. Having originally set up an outlet for their excess farm produce, Henderson's now have a shop, deli, bistro and restaurant which serve interesting, ethical, vegetarian food. We had lunch in the bistro: soup of the day with a choice of homemade bread and pâté. We experienced Baba Ganoush (a powerful purée of baked aubergine and raw garlic) for the first time and enjoyed it enough to make it for our first guests when we got home.

Another highly anticipated Internet discovery was this glorious establishment with a menu of over 40 teas and a range of cakes. Each tea is served in a china tea pot and infuser, with an hourglass timer for the perfect brewing time. Their mismatched, delicate cups and saucers fit in with the feminine 'boutique' decor. The cliental seem to reflect their design decisions, but gentlemen should not be dissuaded from experiencing this surprisingly rare example of tea connoisseurship. Perhaps eteaket is also a reaction to the macho coffee house aesthetic of dark-stained wood double espressos, wi-fi access and business-while-u-drink. It's not only a place to experience fine tea, but a space to relax and have a natter.

Malc tried a fine Bouteaque Blue Mist and Nom had the Chocolate Abyss (with chocolate, cocoa and coconut pieces) and enjoyed it so much that we purchased two tubs to bring home. It went well with our Tunnocks teacakes (25p!).

We experienced the downside to its deserved popularity on more than one occasion when we were turned away because there were no seats left. Go first thing in the morning or later in the evening (they open until 7) to avoid the disappointment.

Loch Lomond
We cooked pope's eye steak on an open fire mid way through our adventure on Loch Lomond (of which more later).

Caffe la Ronda
A perfect mother's coffee stop in Linlithgow, Caffe La Ronda isn't glamorous but it was a nice rest stop and shelter from the elements.

Fredericks coffee house
Another Edinburgh winner, we ended up in Fredrick's having been turned away from eteaket, and only noticed it because the pot plants outside had been blown over, but we'd go back. We had a white chocolate mocha (yummy!) and a cappuccino (a little heavy on the steamed milk, but good). We enjoyed the view of the street below and well chosen decor. Looked and felt great, tasted great and was quiet too.

The Kenilworth
Is a beautiful restored pub with a fine whiskey list. Mentioned in Uncle Bob's Pub Audio Tour (New Town). On the pricey side, but enjoyable high seating with cosy vibe and thoroughly tiled walls.

If Oliphants in Linlithgow doesn't already qualify for legendary status, it should. We had heard rumour that they had closed down, a tragedy especially because Bob the dog had eaten the last of our frozen reserve of imported Oliphant's meat pies. So, great joy when we found both the shops still open. 

We ate the goods sitting beside Linlithgow Loch and were amused by the advice of a passing scot "they're bad for you they are".

Good, solid, old Linlithgow pub with eight ales always on, including their own personal brew. 

Other things we got up to

  • Checked out the highland coos, deer and fish farm at Beecraig's.

  • Walked along the canal from Polmont to Linlithgow (shooting stills for an animation along the way) and caught the train back again. In between the two journeys we took in several eateries, the Palace and several shops.
  • We loaded Gav's car up with a canoe and he took us to Inchcailloch, an island on Loch Lomond, for a BBQed steak sandwich. We had a walk around the island taking in its highest viewpoint and this pile of moss that looked remarkably like a dog.

And finally...

Tips for surviving the journey:
- a laptop, a series of House and some headphone splitters* go a very long way.
- painting can be a mobile activity
- two extra plastic cups make a picnic shareable
- old scottish ladies with trashy magazines and sandwiches make good travel companions
- avoid Birmingham New Street during Friday's rush hour at all costs (particularly during strikes)

* This is our 5 way headphone splitter- share music with five people, or mix music from two mp3 into unto four pairs of ears.

The Daysaver Guide and the Birthday Playlist

One major detail I omitted from the previous post was my handy pizza base-printed, pocket-sized Daysaver Guide. In this Nom included a spider map of some places we could travel to and the buses that linked them, a satelite map of Birmingham, an 'eye spy' page of cool things to do before the end of the day, and a list of noteworthy events and exhibitions (taken from iCal).


My favourite page, however, contained the birthday playlist. It wasn't strictly a playlist though: the words 'Happy Birthday Malcolm' were written in a vertical line down the page but no track names were revealed. Nom had loaded her MP3 player with a list of tracks where the first letter of the title or artist's name began with the relevant letter - 'H' was for Happier Than the Morning Sun by Stevie Wonder, 'A' for Animal Collective's In the Flowers and so on - and I was left to fill in the blanks.


This was an excellent trivia task for a music nerd like me - 'What could "Y" be? Youthmovies?' etc. - and we had a lovely time simply listening through a lovingly prepared compilation as we watched the world go by from the buses. I'd highly recommend this as a present for someone you're close to, if they'll let you near their iTunes that is. In case you're wondering, the final 'M' is for Miles Davis' version of I Loves You, Porgy and 'I' is blank because Nom couldn't pronounce the name of the Angélique Kidjo track.

23: A Daysaver Adventure

For a birthday treat, Nom took me on a Daysaver Adventure. For the uninitiated, a Daysaver Adventure involves catching the first bus that comes to your nearest bus stop, buying a Daysaver ticket - which can take you anywhere and everywhere on the network - and getting off wherever you fancy. We began on Sutton Road with the 905 to Birmingham city centre. When we arrived at Bull Street we took advantage of our proximity to Cyber Candy to pick up supplies (see above) before visiting the New Art Now exhibition at the BMAG and drinking a swift half (or two) of real ale at the Briar Rose.

Then we caught the 47 to Cotteridge, jumping off on the Pershore Road for a canal-side walk.

We ended up in Kings Norton where we had a mooch around the green before catching the 45 back into town. On the way we ate a picnic (cheeky!) of mini pasties, Thai prawn crackers and jelly.

We had some more ale at the Wellington, before heading to Short Heath on the 7 to visit my family, who live nearby, and my grandparents who were visiting. They had prepared a lovely meal of fried plantain, followed by tuna steaks then sticky toffee pudding. My sister also made a wonderful cake which was oozing buttercream! What a day!

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