Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Graduation

Four long years of blood, sweat and toil was rewarded one fine summer's day...



But before we donned our gowns and got all nostalgic, we went for lunch at Adam's in the heart of Birmingham.

This restaurant has been on our radar for a fair while, with amazingly attentive staff, an elegant modern yet natural interior with simple furnishings, and artistic plates & bowls that would feel at home in a ceramics exhibition. It's the brain child of Adam Stokes, previously up in Scotland, he's brought his love of quality local ingredients and culinary flair to the Midlands for a limited time only. His talent is unprecedented, receiving a Michelin star just months after opening.

We opted for the five-course tasting menu to sample his wonderful cuisine that's been raved about.


An amuse bouche of some clams & green goo that totally escapes my memory now. 



Our first course was smoked rainbow trout, tarragon, jersey royals and gherkin. I felt I could taste the adventures of swimming in the wild waters of the Atlantic of this Anglesey fish. It was my favourite of the day, gently spices, beautifully smoked and a nice sharp gherkin.



Next was lamb sweetbreads, baby artichokes and pearl barley. Ells & I thought it had slight curry undertones and was warm to the lips with a nice crunch to the batter and a chew to the barley.



Then reg johnson's chicken, red endive, field mushroom and smoked halibut. This dish polarised our family, Mumma Q loved the combination, Ells said the chicken was perfect and I was slightly underwhelmed - wishing there had been more fish and jus!



After a palette cleansing shot of something delicious I've now forgetten, we moved on to the desserts.

First, the raspberries with lemon verbena, meringue and almonds. Soft sherbet sorbet, tangy raspberries and crisp meringues - so pleasantly refreshing and bursting with the taste of summer. Mumma Q now wants to try and make Lemon Verbena sorbet with our herb that's dominating in the garden currently!



The final dish was the absolute 'piece de la resistance'; a crescent of dark chocolate mousse, light ginger sponge, earl grey gel and melted barley. We approached this dish with trepidation, as on paper it reads as such an odd mix of flavours and textures. And we had nothing to fear, this was delicious, with the tang and the richness and the crunch all dancing around on your palette together. 



As a farewell nibble, there was red pepper jelly with caramel & coffee chocolates. Fruity & fresh followed by bitter & smooth - the ultimate palette cleansing duo!



Everything we ate was very well cooked and presented, and a special effort was made to explain the contents of each dish in detail. We would love to go back to sample there winter tasting menu or attend one of the special event evenings. 

We had a wonderful ladies lunch, and the waiters are ever so informative and attentive. This restaurant is well-worth a detour to the midlands to indulge the foodie in you.

Definitely book ahead, even several months in advance, as it's understandably popular and, bonus,  there's plenty of street parking outside.

21A Bennett's Hill
Birmingham
B2 5QP
Tel: 0121 643 3745



Ah Graduation. The big day.

The celebration of:
the hours spent doodling at the back of lectures, 
the late nights cramming before class-tests, 
the frantic typing up last minute alterations before deadlines, 
trawling the library and wiki for references that match,
the entirety of Easter break spent indoors battling software,
the crisis dissertation meetings

(and that's just the academic side of life!)



I'm not going to be all soppy and say how much I'm going to miss university life and all my friends, which is obviously true, but there are many awesome things on the horizon to look forward to.

I've been fully immersed in the 'uni bubble' and would recommend my campus home to anyone, having been fortunate enough to be involved with volunteering, working, sports, societies and a pretty full on degree. It's no surprise that we were voted as No. 1 UK University by The Times & Sunday Times for 2013/14.




To people getting ready to leave home for the first time and move to a new town to start up at uni - GOOD LUCK, you're about the have the best few years of your life! With your friends right on your doorstep 24/7 and so many activities to get involved in, you'll never want to leave. Even if it turns out you don't madly love your degree, or you get lumped in a halls with a bunch of strangers, you'll find your niche and a way to make the most of it. 

There's so many opportunities right available to you, please make the most of them. You won't realise how great it all is, until the years have flown by and you're all gowned up saying a teary farewell. I'm secretly really jealous and would be back there in a flash!



To the rest of us graduates moving up and out into the big bad world - WELL DONE! We made it, thanks to hundreds of pints of coffee and bars of chocolates and reassuring chats with friends and family (Mumma Q,  you're simply the best) - somehow, we've done it!

Don't be scared, and don't be afraid to try something outside your comfort zone, or in a different area entirely! It could be much better suited to your skills and abilities and you'll only know if you try. As they say, everyone is a beginner once and we all have to start somewhere.

Me? I'm going back-to-basics to undertake Army Officer training for a year before continuing with my dream job. I hope you all find something that challenges you and makes you happy to be alive every given day.



Thank you Birmingham, it's been a blast.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Advanced Diver








The day began with a long and rather splashy 45 mins journey out to Swami Rock. Just zipping along in our own little worlds when a cry out and to our left was a school of dolphins, playing around in the shallower water as the wind was disturbing the deeper water where they normally reside. They were so happy playing around and jumping out of the water, it was one of those magical moments where you forget about your camera and just sat and enjoyed the pod playing.

We had to do more thorough checks today, because we were descending to greater depths. It was so creepy and eery there, spooky sounds and really low visibility- I half expected a giant monster to just poke it's head out from behind a rock! We got down to 23 metres and had to compare a colour chart, I didn't realise how dull red would look- it was a pale peachy brown colour instead.

Thankfully we successfully completed the skills part of the dive (after I had a total fail of spelling Olivia backwards- an exercise to prove that you process things slower at depth). We went for a swim around and appreciated the magic of the fallen statues- above the cliff there are both Hindu and Buddhist temples and the story goes that the holy statues are very sacred as there is no way they could remain intact after a fall off the cliff. Total mystery.
Ganesh (the elephant god) is always guarded by a giant honeycomb moray eel. There are plenty of there creepy faces poking out from under the rocks- with Morays the big ones are chilled and harmless, whereas it's the small ones that are dangerous. We were so lucky to see a speckled electric ray, very dangerous that stings with a mammoth electric shock. Even though the water was murky and the coral wasn't as bright, it was nice to experience a different diving environment where we were twisting and turning around the giant rocks.

After a break up top with our fav mini bananas to help curb the inevitable cramps, we jumped back in water for some fun playing around with the gopros that masqueraded as our underwater photography lesson. So much fun and dead simple to use - they go down to over 60m!! 

Out the water and absolute knackered, we all crashed out on deck and baked in the sun on the route back to home. Parveen and Poseidon dive school were brilliant, absolute top notch instruction with fun and games to keep it all light hearted. His passion and enthusiasm for diving is tangible n so contagious that Lou & I are already planning our next trip away over Christmas to compete our rescue diver course- the next rung on the ladder to diver superpower!

Our last afternoon was spent lazing about on our perfect beach, spotting sand dollars and baby starfish in the shallows. 

A quiet evening with a very honest recollection of the tsunami of December 2004 by one of the dive masters after us asking about the whereabouts of his log book. A very real and sobering reminder of the power of nature and how all these people have really triumphed in the face of adversity to pick their country up over the last 10 years, all done with smiles on their faces and such kindness of heart.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Burghley

My life is absolutely crazy at the mo! I feel like I barely have time to sit down with a brew and catch my breath between adventures. But I love my big busy life and wouldn't change it for the world, and I'm so very fortunate to have wonderful friends to go visit and share this fabulous summer with!



So pretty please excuse me that we're rewinding time a bit today, with a flashback to last week when I ventured up North for an impromptu day with my beautiful Emily



We kicked off our day with a stonking brunch at her local haunt, Buttercross, which fuelled us up fabulously for the adventures to come.


As we had been spoilt with such wonderful weather, we decided to make the most of it by wandering around Burghley House and grounds, but the clouds had other ideas! Undeterred, we marvelled at the stonework and Em impressed me with her history knowledge, all the while planning and dreaming of our perfect country manors...one day! 






You're free to mooch around and dine at the Orangery restaurant overlooking the fish pond with the heady scent of lavender relaxing your mind.



Wander round the side of the house, and you're in for a treat..





The Garden of Surprises is well manicured and intriguing place, with some over-enthusiastic fountains to delight the kids and quiet corners for their weary parents to sit and rest a while!





The whole garden is centred on Roman theme, with influences from their Gods and Emperors apparent in each of the sections. I was a total geek at school and absolutely loved studying Classics, I was even super close to reading it at university...




After playing chicken with some fountains, we headed out to pastures new and chatted our way round the Sculpture Park. 






My mumma and little sister are such arty creatures, that as a child I was always dragged along to many galleries and exhibitions, which was nice, but there's something special about seeing these rustic masterpieces embedded in the grass, out on the lake and hidden in the woods. I love seeing how beautifully nature and art pair together.





I don't know how often the exhibitors change, but there are some really lovely pieces amongst the trees, so please go visit for yourself and get lost in the peaceful beauty and do go and have a look at Emily's post for some stunning photos.

Little did I know, there was another delight of the Burghley Estate that Em led me towards...



Deer! 
That were just relaxing out on the grass, enjoying a nice little afternoon siesta. 
We had so much fun cooing over them and trying to persuade them to come over for a stroke, but they were pretty unconvinced.


As ever, our snapchat fans had a total barrage of photos to flick through. I'm way too addicted to this app, seriously though - how did we manage without it? 


We rewarded our deer-stalking efforts with pints of natural goodness from Fine Foods before Em allowed me to indulge in my favourite countryside past-time of walking her adorable chocolate lab through the fields. Heaven.



The cherry on the cake of our day adventuring, was sipping a refreshing cider overlooking Rutland Water where we were joined by the incredibly talented Katie of Katie's Kitchen Journal.

A day of catching up, gossiping, daydreaming and planning future adventures, thanks for being the best tour guide Em and for showing me round your neck of the woods.

Here's to a wonderful summer!