All posts by Steph Clarke

#8 Fact About Me: I love camping

Beresford DaleRiver Dove, Beresford Dale, Derbyshire.

I love camping, waking up in a field with life stripped back to just the essentials and the day stretching out before you with no where to be.

I think it’s good for my soul to spend a few nights in the countryside,  in the tent  at least once a year.

This weekend we went camping, and while for various reasons it wasn’t as relaxed as I hoped it would be it was what I needed, an escape. The place we most often visit is Barracks Farm in the Peak District. We go with the Home Ed community to Peak Camp and it’s wonderful. No electricity and no phone signal. There’s an outdoor tap to fill your water bottles and a small wash room for you cooking stuff. A toilet block and showers that operate at 20p per minuter for hot warm tepid water and an elsan point for those that require it and that’s it.

It’s mile and half from the nearest shop and a good 30 minute walk along the river and across farmland to the nearest village. It’s a field  on the edge of Beresford Dale with green views as far as the eye can see and night skies that go on forever.

Moon over Beresford DaleThe moon from the campsite

It’s quiet and friendly, accessible, welcoming to pets and incredibly well situated for travel from the midlands and to explore the rest of both the Staffordshire and Derbyshire peaks.

This little piece of the English countryside has a place in my heart.

When can I go back again?

 

Deals That People as Beautiful as You Bought….Wowcher

I sign up for these voucher sites, Living Social, Groupon, etc. – you know the ones. They usually contain a mix of offers ranging from photo printing and weekends away, to MOTs and hair cuts and everything in between. We’ve had a lovely weekend away and some great canvases printed for the house using these sites  – my father in law is addicted to them….

However today I think they’ve misjudged their marketing….

I received an email from Wowcher with the tag line “Deals That People as Beautiful as You Bought ” – which  had me sticking my fingers down my throat and gagging before I opened even it, expecting a host of offers for bargain clothes and hair and beauty products.

What it actually contained however were offers for thread vein treatments, lipo suction and skin tag removals –

WOWCHER

What the hell is Wowcher trying to tell us??? – re-read the tag line with  a sarcastic emphasis on “beautiful” and I think you’ll see where I’m going with this. Way to make a girl feel bad about herself Wowcher – What’s next for people as beautiful as me, diet pills, gastric bypass and face lifts?

Tears, Thank Yous and Transport Woes.

Wow what a morning.

I am female which should go without saying about once a month I get terribly irritable, overly tired, grouchy, irrational and emotional (sorry militant feminists I’m not doing womankind an injustice, just stating fact) What I could do without at about the same time as the PMS monsters strike is a morning like I experienced today.

Which in fact started last night with a disappearing cat and a late night wake up call by the other half arriving back from a meeting a half past midnight. It was this and the 5am thunderstorm that woke me which resulted in me getting only 5 hours sleep and set me up for the rest of the day.

Up and dressed by 7:30am I needed my breakfast and cup of tea so headed out in the rain to the shop. More than damp I returned milk in hand to start my day, and agreed given the storm that was raging to head out a little earlier and take TBK to school in the car ( we usually make him walk as it’s only 10 mins away but damn did you see the rain this morning).

Starting the car it all started to go wrong. Up pops the ABS warning light and every time I hit the breaks even at low speeds they kick in juddering to a halt. Dropping TBK just up from the school gates I do a U-turn and return home, the warning light is still on, however the brakes are behaving better BUT considering the torrential rain, thunder and lightening I figure it’s best to dump the car and jump on the bus/train rather than run the risk of the brakes failing somewhere on the M5 .

At home I have a heated conversation with other half about the merits of trying to use public transport in this weather given its track record of unreliability, call my boss to let him know the score and that I’m going to be late and leave the car to head for the bus.

By this point I’m pissed off! Pissed at the car – after the debacle with the last one anything that goes wrong with this one leads be towards mild panic. I’m pissed at James who in my already pissed off state has made me feel like he doesn’t understand the responsibility I feel of heading into the office when shit like this happens (the joys of being self employed). I have PMS. I’m sticky and wet – the humidity and the storm both getting me and I’m trying to find out what’s the best way to get to the new office as I’ve not done it on public transport yet.

Wolves train station I buy my ticket, tuck it into my purse and check departures. Fuck! Delays of up to 45 minutes – I text my boss to let him know I’m going to be even later, nip to the loo and then play platform bingo for the next 20 minutes while updates are being given and platforms moved after a lightening strike somewhere on the line.

Finally on the train I find a seat and settle down to enjoy the journey, All is well until we near Birmingham and the train manger enters the carriage. I open my bag in search of my ticket and panic sets in. It’s not there!!! My purse is just gone! Not purse means no ticket, no cash, no cards! I start emptying my bag onto the table in front of me. Fuck Fuck Fuck. As the inspector gets closer I can feel myself tearing up. Images of of fare dodgers being frog marched from the train fill my head “I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE” and then I can see my purse, sitting next to the sink where I washed my hands, back on platform 2 of Wolves Station,  It’s the final straw and I burst into tears. The train manager (whose name I sadly didn’t get) takes one look at me and knows I need help – and that I’m not trying to pull the wool over his eyes! He sits opposite me, listens to me and gets out his phone. He calls his head office in Cardiff because they don’t have numbers for individual stations and tries to help me get in touch with someone who can help.

Kindness of Strangers

By this point were pulling into New Street and we get off the train, standing on the platform he tries calling Cardiff again – while he’s doing this a fellow passenger jumps off the train and offers me money -He’d been listening in the whole time and offered me enough to pay any fine I may have for not having my ticket and to get me out of the station  to sort myself out. I tell him it wouldn’t be necessary, the train manager has already said I wont be fined but he lifts my spirits enough to stop me crying! The manager tells me they haven’t had any joy and asks for my mobile number so Cardiff can call me direct and apologetically gets back on the train to continue his journey.

So there I am tear stained in the belly of New Street station and my next thought is how the hell do I get out with no ticket to get me through the ticket barriers… What happened was me and my tear stained faced appearing in front of the ticket staff recanting my story and being ushered understandingly to the customer service desk to help me on my way.  They called Wolverhampton for me and a member of staff there went and found my purse exactly where I’d left it – but £10 lighter –  and I was able to make arrangements with them for my husband to fetch it for me.

The staff were great.

Money Money Money

The next step was for me to get the office via the bank to try and get cash to eat and get home that evening. Thankfully I can recall my account number and sort code so I thought it would be a case of rocking up to the bank, giving them my story, bank details, answering a couple of security questions and walking away with some cash… no such luck. Why after the morning I’d had did I think it was going to be that easy!

I gave the teller my story and why I didn’t have my card and she asked me to write down my details and sign a slip…. 30 seconds later, the computer said NO!!

The signature they had on file for me didn’t match the one I’d just supplied! It’s hardly surprising considering it has been 15 years since I opened my account but damn what a time to realise. But I think the teller also realised now was not a good time to be telling me no, off she went to  find a manager who thankfully, given my predicament, and that I could reel off a list of the direct debits and the dates they went out of my account let me take out enough money for lunch and the train journey home.

Thankfully my day at work went without a hitch my lovely boss was incredibly understanding of the disheveled mess that arrived over 2 hours late and still let me out on time to attempt the return journey home – which thankfully went a little smoother than the journey into work.

I’ve booked the day off tomorrow to the get the car looked at. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Brave – My body

Being Brave

This is me – part naked, exposed and posting this before I chicken out – this is in response the BBC article – Are women’s bodies still beautiful after pregnancy? I read and subsequently shared it on Facebook  and it led to a really refreshing conversation with a group of my friends – all  mothers – about their feelings about their bodies.

Stretch marks, cesarean scars, weight gain, between us we had all felt that something was at fault with our bodies. It made me feel – for want of a better expression. Less alone.

I was stupid while pregnant I ate and ate and ate, young and niave so thought “it’s baby weight – it’ll come off”. I was a size 10 -12 when I fell pregnant yet came out of the hospital a size 16 with added stretch marks and flabby bits. The only time I’ve fit into a 12 since was when I was on antidepressants – I got better then my back and hip problems started and the weight piled back on.

Oftentimes I hate my body – I have no real hang ups on how other people view me,  But I really do have issues with how I FEEL and I how I view myself and that feeling is compounded by the heatwave we’re currently experiencing.  Spring, Autumn, Winter – hell even in the last few summers I’ve been able to hide behind jeans, jumpers and shirts, I can dress and pretend, but in this heat there is nowhere to so.

It’s uncomfortable to be fat. Clothes don’t fit – summer clothes are designed for waifs and in shorts and vests everything is on show. The fat on my thighs – because WHY DO THEY MAKE WOMENS SHORTS SO SHORT, the stretch marks on my arms, the creases on my back, it’s all there for the world to see  – and I feel uncomfortable, so very uncomfortable and exposed.

Some one sent a card into postsecret:

Being Fat Is like having your most humiliating "secret" visible for the world to see and JUDGE

 

And they hit the nail on the head. While in reality I don’t care what YOU think of me, it only takes one story in media, one television programme about thin being beautiful, one stupid stupid facebook post or hurtful remark in the street to reinforce my feelings about myself. And I shouldn’t feel this bad about being me.

I’m 32, a Mom of one, recently married with a great job. I’ve overcome homelessness, selfishness of others and health issues to be where I am today and here isn’t such a bad place…

…So I’ve been brave and taken this photo. This is me laid bare, I can look at this and see the back fat and the split ends or I can look at this and see history. Every ounce of that weight has been on a journey with me and I need to be grateful for who I am and what I have, and so should all of the other ladies who were talking to me today. I have the greatest of respect for you my friends. You exude confidence and are so much fun to be around from the exterior no one would know of the body issues beneath.

It has taken so much courage for me to take and post this photo ( no really there was nearly tears and I’m home alone) but you’re WE’RE  all beautiful and think we just need to believe that of ourselves.

Sweet Palmiers

Today I’ve cooked up a batch of these for a BBQ were having tomorrow, the recipe is one I learned on my “Creative Canapes” class while on.honeymoon in Tideswell.

They’re delicious on their own, with a cup of tea or as a side to a creamy custard dessert.

Sweet Palmiers

200g Puff Pastry
60g sugar (it doesn’t matter if it’s granulated or caster, I used golden caster for these)
Half teaspoon cinnamon
One egg beaten
Water

Pre heat your oven to gas mark 6 abs then start by rolling your pastry on a lightly floured surface. You’re looking to roll a rectangle approximately 30cm x 15-20cm and 3mm thick (about as thick as a pound coin)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl, make sure it’s well combined and there are no lumps of spice.

Brush your pastry with the egg abs then evenly sprinkle the sugar & cinnamon over the entire surface. Once covered use your rolling pin and lightly roll over the surface to help the sugar stick to the pastry and sprinkle with water.

With the pastry laid out landscape in front of you with a sharp knife gently score 6 even strips along the length….I find this easiest to approximate the centre of the pastry and start there, score a line and then you know you need two lines above and two below equal distances apart.

Now, take the top section of pastry and fold it down over the next section down, do the same with the bottom section, folding it up over the next part. Brush the freshly exposed pastry with water and then repeat the folding to get the pastry to meet in the middle. Brush this too with water and then fold it over itself one last time.

Chill for 10-15 minutes… this really helps with the next step as if it’s not chilled it’s too squishy.

Lightly grease and sprinkle with water a baking tray.

Lay out the freshly cooled roll on a lightly floured surface and slice into 5mm thick pieces.

Evenly space these out flat on the tray squashing them slightly with the palm of your hand as you go.

Bake for about 8 mins, or until golden. Leave on a wire rack to cool.

These store well in an air tight container 2-3 days….. but in our house they never last that long.

These could also be made by mixing powdered ginger into the sugar in place of the cinnamon. Or you could use chocolate paste in place of both…. Or make them savoury by using pesto or tomato sauce… the possibilities are endless!

Cheat Use store bought puff pastry because there’s not enough hours in the day to be making my own all the time.

Just call me Mrs Clarke

Steph and James Wedding group shot

So three weeks ago today I got married. To James, of course, my best friend and partner of over 7 years. It was wonderful day, made all the more magical because of the people that shared it with us. We felt happy and loved, and the day was exactly how it should have been, stress free and fun.

So now I am a Clarke – I have to keep writing that down to remind myself, three times since the big day I’ve signed into events/venues with my maiden name and I keep coming across things that I need to add to my “change contact details” list. You don’t get a manual of these things from the church on the day – it’s up to you to remember the HMRC, the DVLA, Passport office, bank, home & car insurance, doctors, dentist, kid’s school, utilities all need your new details.  I’m not even a third of the way through getting them changed – in fact while typing that list I realised that I’d forgotten the water board!!

But I digress, The wedding – The wedding was amazing and below is a taster of our big day from our awesome photography team Mark & Vicky Wood of F8media / Wedding Deja Vous and Sarah of Sarah Giles Photography (yes we had a whole paparazzi following us around on the day).

2661 days ago..

Our Orders of service – hand made by us to continue the them from the hand made luggage tag invitations

The music of love

The amazing Dan Whitehouse  (no seriously he is amazing check him out on Spotify) played for us while we signed the register. He played one of his own songs which we both love, and he then played a cover of Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe – James and I are both PJ fans and Dan went out of his way to learn this in the 3 weeks prior to the wedding, Thank you Dan, it was appreciated!

99, sir?

My unique transport – I arrived at the church with the chimes going, and then after the service dished up ice creams to my husband and some of the guests (yes I know there was no strawberry sauce – I managed to get ice cream all down me do you really think I was going to risk something bright red in a white dress??)

Steph & James

We asked guests to walk with us between the church and the reception venue – it wasn’t far and a jolly group we made with all the balloons laughter and smiles.

Steph & James

We finished the day dancing into the evening  – we had the reception in a room myself, my bridesmaids and my Mom had decorated that morning with red and white decorations, balloons, fairy lights and paper chains. Our first dance was to Elbow’s “One Day Like This” and despite only really deciding we we going to dance the day before the wedding it was  perfect choice – and the local constabulary, who dropped in to bring us a celebratory card mid dance, thought we’d choreographed it – which isn’t bad for a couple who between them have four left feet!

We kept everything as local as possible for us and the guests and even used local suppliers where we could.

Music was supplied by the amazing Four on the Floor a wedding band from Wednesbuy, I can not highly recommend these boys enough. They hit just the right mix of old party tunes and indie sing-a-longs, keeping everyone happy and the dance floor full most of the night , They even, once they’d heard the speeches and THAT Pearl Jam /Eddie Vedder story, in the break between their sets went outside and learned Pearl Jam’s Alive to play especially for James – you can’t ask for better than that!

Food was a Hog Roast by Hammonds Catering  in Telford and a small buffet supplied by my good friend Sam of the Oasis Community Cafe in Pendeford, Wolverhampton.

The whole day was perfect and the smiles say it all…..

Steph James & Jordan

Hugs
Abbey Road meets Steph & James Wedding Day

Steph & James

Some tracks from the day can been listened to on our play list below.

Brighter Than Sunshine was what I walked down the aisle too. Somebody loves you and Just Breathe are what Dan played while we signed te register. You Are The Best Thing is what we left the church to, and One Day Like This was our first dance. Everything else was either played in the church as our guests were arrived, or covered by Dan while we were having our afternoon tea in the church and garden. We know there are some missing we just cant remember them all…

 

 

Arbor Lights – Hatherton Lake: A review (of sorts)

Arbor Lights debut album came out yesterday and today Matt Elton – guitarist in the band tweeted:

So I thought I’d oblige. Now there are some things you should know first.

  1. I’m biased (I’m related to exactly half the members, in fact recently married to one)
  2. I’m not really a review writer, or a writer of any kind for that matter
  3. I don’t like Post Rock as a rule (give me something I can sing along to any day)

Point 3 may negate point one, we’ll see.

Hatherton Lake

Arbor Lights are a band of 4 named after the bar they first met in, which in turn was named after the Arboretum it was situated down the road from. Hatherton Lake, Arbor Lights debut album offering continues the theme, titled after the lake situated within the Arboretum.

Recorded and mixed by Michael Clarke at his studio in Hockley, Birmingham, the industrial backdrop of the area lends itself well to the tracks on this album. The opening track The Silent City could almost be a sound track to that area, reverberating guitars into uplifting melodies and a beat to nod your head to, in fact intended or otherwise the inner sleeves art work, the city skyline features the dominating BT tower synonymous with the area.

The other four tracks that make up this album Interstellar, Damascus, Sillohettes & The Mayor and the Diver all take you on a journey that the more musical aficionados amongst you will understand (I’ve read that in enough reviews to know that’s a good thing to say, yes?). Differing from other Post Rock albums 4 of the 5 tracks come in under the 10 minutes mark – which trust me is a good thing – The reason I don’t like Post Rock as a rule is I get bored part way through, by 12 minutes in I’m all yes, yes, move along next track please…. The shorter length and the clear melodies of the tracks mean I can listen and enjoy, although in truth I much prefer to see them live…..and seriously boys, Where’s the singer??  😉

 Listen for yourself and make up your own mind