Baskets of bread and a barrel of laughs

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As an avid viewer of programmes such as Masterchef and The Great British Bake-off, being given an opportunity to spend an entire day baking, thanks to a generous Christmas present from my parents, was one I relished.

The venue was Oxfords Bakery, based in Alweston, near Sherborne, and myself and my mum, along with four other eager wannabe-bakers donned aprons and prepared to get stuck in, elbow-deep in dough.

Oxfords is a family-run business and has been making bread since 1911. Fourth generation baker Steven Oxford runs the relatively new School of Bread, as well as heading up bakeries in Sherborne and Blandford, and a deli in Canford Cliffs.

Arriving at the venue at 12pm we started the course with a welcome cup of tea and a tour of the bakery, fitted out with its 91-year-old bread oven and what Steve believes to be the largest working giant dough mixer in the country.

We were given recipe sheets and aprons and we began to work our way through a variety of doughs, including wholemeal dough, milk dough, bun dough, and a scone mixture, and along the way we learned how to knead the dough, how long to let it prove, all the while being both encouraged and heckled (all very-good natured!)

We baked right through until 6pm and also got the chance to choose a recipe we particulary wanted to do. I picked foccacia with olives and almond harissa, and mum went for a Dorset Blue Vinny loaf.

Our group got along famously, and I think a lot of that was down to Steve’s laid back and friendly approach. He certainly was a fantastic teacher, and full of terrible jokes along the way! He knows his stuff, any queries we had he answered fully, and he went out of his way to help and make sure we understood the breadmaking processes so we could confidently take our skills home with us.

Having started off thinking I might manage to bake a loaf of bread I was amazed when we each managed to produce six Bath buns, 15 scones, a plaited wholemeal loaf, four wholemeal rolls, a poppy seed loaf, four milk dough rolls, and a speciality bread…… and I’ve probably missed something….. needless to say the entire batch only just fit in the back of mum’s Mini!

I would recommend this course to absolutely everyone. It was such fun, and who wouldn’t want a larder full of baked goods? Guy’s delighted at the prospect of eating his way through all that dough.

You can find out more about the course on www.oxfordsbakery.co.uk or email info@oxfordsbakery.co.uk

A little bit of perspective

Supposedly January is meant to be the month of feeling “blue”, with the come down from Christmas, and the gloomy winter days. I tend to find February is my worst month, and although it’s a short it tends to drag.
This year it’s been about thinking of going back to part time work, being cooped up in the house with Ethan and spending weekends without Guy as he studies for a masters degree and his chartered surveyor’s qualification.
This morning though, the sun is shining and it seemed the perfect opportunity to get out of the house and go for a walk with Ethan in tow.
There’s a loop I do near our house, and it never ceases to make me feel blessed about where I live. Breathtaking views, regardless of the weather, make me feel so lucky for living in this part of the world. It’s a walk I take when I need to clear my head, put the world to rights with good friends, and enjoy being together with my husband. It’s a walk that has always served me well.
Today it made me think that although it’s still February, the sun is shining, all is well in my world and life is good. Besides, March isn’t so far away.
Hooray for Somerset!

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Returning to normality

After nine months of not going out, not sleeping and feeling like we’ve been in a bit of a bubble, it’s just struck me that Ethan can’t be classed as a newborn, or even a baby anymore. Soon we will be calling him a toddler, and he’ll have his first birthday in May.
All of a sudden, we’re just another couple with a child, and the newness and excitement that other people showed when Ethan was first born is now fading. That’s not a negative, it means we managed to get past the tough bit (although people always tell me it never gets easier…) and we can start going out, feeling happier to leave Ethan with the grandparents and venture further afield.
At the weekend I had my longest stint away from Ethan – from Friday until Monday – joining friends in Oxford for a hen do. I felt like the old me, and though I missed Ethan, it was great to be able to feel I could start doing fun things again. Of course I couldn’t possibly tell you what we got up to – after all, what goes on tour, stays on tour, right? All I can say is that I didn’t do any knitting……..

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Waving goodbye to sleep

No sleeping here...

It’s been six days since my last blog post – and the reason is this. I’m tired. Not just your average, “oh I’ve had a hard day at work” tired, or the good tired you get after a proper work out – but total exhausting, mental tiredness, that only comes after you have a baby.

In the first few months it was expected, and the hourly wakings were almost bearable. Then Ethan started sleeping through the night and everything was wonderful – for a while.

Now, it’s a lottery. Some nights he’ll tease us by sleeping a full twelve hours, only to then give us complete hell for the next two nights.

In the morning, althought bleary eyed, he will maintain energy levels similar to that of a toddler on Red Bull.

A few months back I was encouraging him to crawl. Now I wish he would sit still.

But it’s not all bad. Yesterday I spoke to another mum who was so happy – she’d had her first full night’s sleep in three-and-a-half years.

As I write this Ethan is screaming at me. It would seem he is tired.

High drama and fingerless gloves

It’s been an interesting week for the family. Finally, having got over my feeling-terrible-ness, we had a scare on Sunday night when Ethan woke up making a noise like a barking seal and seeming not to be able to catch his breath.
Like the paranoid first-time parents that we are, panic set it, followed by the “no one ever prepared us for this” face and then the sudden decision that driving to Yeovil hospital A and E department was the only thing for it – at midnight. Of course the second we arrived, the seal-like noises and shortness of breath miraculously disappeared as quickly as it had started. On meeting a member of the paediatric team Ethan then turned on the charm, laughing and hooting as if this was all a very amusing game.
Anyway, he’s fine. I guess it’s the first of many panicky moments that we’ll have where our baby is concerned.
During the day before the hospital incident, my poor mum rang me to tell me she’d been walking the dog when she happened upon a dead lady lying in the road. It had shaken her up pretty badly and who can blame her? So in a week of high drama, knitting has featured fairly low down on the agenda I’m afraid to say.
However, with the cold weather finally setting in, I’m working on a pair of fingerless mittens – I’ve finished one, so one hand will be nice and warm. I imagine they’ll be useful should we have any more late night drives to the hospital…..

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