I can't remember the last time I published a post that didn't include a recipe, but I really felt the need to have a little coffee break and catch up with you guys and let you know what's happening in the Kitchen Sanctuary household, including some news which is still making me feel rather giddy!
We're about a week away from the end of the Summer holidays, and I think the kids are ready to go back to school. I usually envisage the summer holidays being balmy days, where Chris and I do a little work, then relax in the garden with a cold beer whilst the kids are splashing around in the paddling pool, or racing around our street on their bikes.
And do you know what? That NEVER happens. We've been so busy, that we've not even taken the paddling pool out of the shed.
Of the few days we've all been at home, Chris and I have been frantically trying to keep up with work (you may have noticed I've been posting a lot less these past few weeks), whilst the kids have been flaked out, recovering from whatever trip or event they've just got back from.
We opted for a staycation this year. The idea was staying in the UK would be a little more laid back and less expensive, but it didn't really work out that way.
Is it just me, or are staycations WAY more expensive than you think they're going to be?
Some of our highlights for August were:
Alton Towers - we spent a fortune on front-of-line passes, and got our brains knocked around on the many rollercoasters (Thirteen was my favourite, Rita made me scream until I ran out of scream, and the fear of Oblivion was way more scary in my mind than in reality). A fun but exhausting day.
A few days in York - the ghost walk was one of my favourite parts, but the Viking centre was a little disappointing for the price and queues. We enjoyed walking along the city walls:
We also stopped off a Billy Bob's Ice Cream parlour in Skipton. They do THE BEST birthday cake flavour ice cream, and they also have a play barn that the kids love (yes, I had a go on the rope swings after a little persuasion too!!).
The shops and houses were brilliant - with lots of Victorian-dressed staff teaching candle dipping, brick making and typesetting, plus authentic cottages, pubs (loved the singalong with the piano) and shops to wander around (you could even swap your modern money for shillings!).
No word of a lie, we had the best chips we've ever tasted there - fried in beef dripping.
They were so good, we drove all the way back there for another visit a couple of weeks later, and the chip shop was our first stop - ever the greedy foodie....
and yes, we couldn't resist dressing up ourselves in the dressing up area there:
We visited the Yorkshire Wildlife Park on our way home, which was fantastic. The enclosures were huge and the animals looked happy, playful and content. One of the highlights was seeing the lions - who had been rescued from terribly poor conditions in a zoo in Romania, and now have a gorgeous 7-acre enclosure. They've also recently re-homed 4 brown bears in the park, rescuing them from cramped enclosures in a museum in Japan.
The day after we got home, the kids went off to Wales with their grandparents, and Chris and I redecorated and renovated their bedrooms. Four x 16-hour days of painting, sanding, plastering, building and carpet laying, fuelled by lots of coffee. The kids arrived home literally 4 minutes after we sat down on the sofa to relax.
A quick peak of Lewis's room before and after:
Chris turned 36 a few weeks ago, and one of his favourite pressies was the joke present of a soda stream that I got him. I thought it would be a bit of retro fun that would soon end up in the back of the cupboard, but actually we've used it loads (even making our own ginger beer for Dark n' Stormy cocktails).
Gracey had a birthday too - which involved a sleepover with 5 of her friends, and a hot tub we hired for the occasion. They giggled for 12 hours straight, enjoyed mixing their own mocktails and pretty much covered the house in popcorn. We sent them all home these t-shirts - which I felt was very apt for a bunch of 12 year olds after only a couple of hours sleep.
Chris managed to injure his Achilles last week - to the point that he can hardly walk. That made it really difficult for him when we went to The Big Feastival this past weekend.
I tried to make him stay at home, but he batted my arguments away with his crutches and hobbled through the whole day (love that man!).
I was cooking in the main stage - A cook-off between myself as the first Neff Cookaholic winner, and Jane from The Hedgecombers, who won last year. We battled it out with our own bread pudding recipes (I made a spiced apple bread pudding with browned butter crumble and easy salted caramel, and Jane made a dairy-free bread pudding with coconut and cardamom). The audience voted, and I won! Jane's was bloomin tasty though - I think it was a close call.
A fantastically fun day, and I went home on a total high! The kid's loved sitting in the front row, and were so good - shouting for mummy to win. We got to meet Gennaro Contaldo too!
And finally, my last bit of news to finish off our little coffee break (where, let's face it, I've literally just talked at you for the past 15 minutes), is that I got a book deal!!
Page Street publishing approached my a while ago now, and we've just signed the contract. Squeeeee!!
I'll be creating lots of new recipes, and I'll also be doing the photography for the book.
I'm so excited that I keep breaking out into little jiggle dances in inappropriate places like coffee queues and supermarkets.
I love that they're letting me do the photography, as it gives me so much more control over how I want the book to look. Lots and lots of work, but I'm not complaining one bit (I'll try to remain this optimistic on my tenth consecutive day of shooting!).
More to come on the book soon. I'll keep you updated as things progress.
In the meantime, I've got a few more days before the kids go back to school to fit on a bit of picnicing at Rudyard lake on Friday, and some indoor skydiving on Saturday.
Who needs sleep. It's overrated anyway....
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