My September

Firstly I need to send out a massive apology for going AWOL. August was a blur of daily hospital visits to my beloved Nanny’s bedside which resulted in me never finishing my August round-up. I lost my mojo as I saw her fading in front of my eyes and in all honesty, I am unsure if or when I will ever get it back. For those that know me personally, the past few months have been tough. Emotionally I have had to pick myself up every day and head out of the house to work pretending everything was fine. Of course, it wasn’t. My dear, darling Nanny was struggling to make a recovery from a partial hip replacement after falling in her care home. In the end, her frail, 94-year-old body just couldn’t cope anymore and she left this earth on the 4th September. I cry every day thinking about her cheeky smile and the massive hole in my life now that she isn’t here. What will I do with my afternoons off now I don’t have her to visit? She was a massive part of my day, my week.. my life.

With my mum passing away last year, my sisters and I were left in charge of organising the next step. Thank goodness for my step-dad Tim. He guided us through the procedures and protocols that go along with funeral organising. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. Not only because you are grieving but there is so much to think about and do. You get caught up in a whirlwind and get blown from office to office, person to person and place to place. I wouldn’t have had a single clue where to start if it wasn’t for Tim and I know my sisters and I couldn’t have pulled off the wonderful send off that we did for Nanny without his kind input. A beautiful service on a beautiful day for a beautiful lady.

Talking of kindness; my friends have been amazing. Thank you all for helping with the baking and making for the after funeral gathering as well as being there for hand squeezing, tissue giving and plain old listening. I am a very lucky lady to have the friends I do.

September hasn’t all been about Nanny’s funeral though. I have managed to squeeze in a few days out, lunches and tea and cake dates. I have been thankful for those little pockets of joy in and around the sadness.

Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival 2019

I was invited to Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival last year and couldn’t make it due to a dear friend’s wedding so was thrilled that the organisers contacted me again to attend this year’s event.

Steve and I arrived around noon to soak up the festival ambiance in the town prior to a talk by Dominic Sandbrook on his latest publication Who Dares Wins.

We were blessed with the most gorgeous weather so we headed down through the town towards the beach. For those of you not familiar with Budleigh Salterton it’s a beautiful town on the coast about 15 miles outside of Exeter. The town lies within an area of outstanding natural beauty with many walks that take you winding up the stunning red cliffs that are so familiar in this part of East Devon as well as upstream towards the picturesque village of Otterton.

With lunchtime approaching and a small window to enjoy something to eat we looped back from the coast path, down through the town back to the main hub of the festival and the marquee. My old friends from Black Tor Brewery were manning the pumps so of course, it would have been rude not to have had a pint of their special Budleigh Festival Beer with lunch. Posh Nosh were in charge of catering and provided a selection of hot and cold dishes as well as teas, coffees and cakes. I opted for the vegan sausage roll with a selection of salads that came with a very reasonable price tag of £7.00.

With lunch consumed and Festival Beer polished off, we made our way to our first talk of the day with the aforementioned Dominic Sandbrook. What this man doesn’t know about the late 70’s early 80’s really isn’t worth knowing! His insightful lecture on that era’s politics and popular culture made me think that in some ways we had come full circle. Back then our countries politics were up in the air with a brand new Prime Minister in the form of Margaret Thatcher and Great Britain was on the brink of great change economically. Sound familiar?

Our second lecture was by Diana Darke and was based about her latest release The Last Sanctuary in Aleppo. This book has most certainly been catapulted to the top of my must-read list. A true story of hope, courage and survival in war-torn Syria. Alaa Aljaleel is the hero of this book written about his life as a makeshift ambulance driver who created a cat sanctuary in the middle of the rubble of Aleppo. I have to say Diana’s story certainly tugged at my heartstrings on more than one occasion as well as bringing a tear to my eye. For all you cat lovers out there this book is for you.

Next years Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival is already in my diary (Wednesday 16th – Sunday 20th September 2020) and should be in yours if you want to attend a well-organised festival of books, writing and authors. Not only that Budleigh as a town has many independent shops and cafes well worth factoring into your day.

Comptoir Libanais

My friend Chloe and I met for lunch at the Exeter branch of Comptoir Libanais for a late and very lazy lunch the last Sunday of the month.

Since Chloe moved to Exeter a few months ago she hadn’t really been out and about socially so it was great that we managed to pin down a date for lunch.

Comptoir Libanais is probably my favourite foodie chain. It still feels like it’s a one-off and the staff are always pleasant and attentive. I truly love mezze and the comforting flavours of Lebanon. The gentle spices, the smooth dips with flatbreads, comforting tagines and grilled meats with vegetables. The food is great for sharing so if you are out with a friend or in a bigger group it’s a great stop off. I noticed whilst visiting that they were taking bookings for the “C” word so perhaps Comptoir Libanais could be a fun Christmas party venue? Yep, it’s that time of year again!

Chloe and I enjoyed a cold beer alongside our dip selection, falafel, spicy potatoes and halloumi and tomato salad. Each dish was beautifully presented and so tasty. For dessert, we shared a gorgeous orange blossom mouhalabia, a traditional Lebanese milk pudding, alongside some baklava. We couldn’t fault the food from start to finish and it was lovely to be able to take time over lunch without feeling hurried. Chloe and I had a lot to catch up on since her move. A full review is on the way but in the meantime, you might want to give your tastebuds a tingle by checking out these photographs.

Recipe Round Up

I have recently published two delicious seasonal recipes. In case you missed them here they are.

For my Courgette and Lemon Muffins With Cream Cheese Frosting recipe click here.

For my recipe for A Simple Fig Sponge Cake click here.

So there it is. My rather overdue blog post highlighting what I have been up to this September. I am hoping that next month will bring lots of fun my way. Lord knows I deserve it after the last few months I have had. I will keep my fingers and toes firmly crossed.

In the diary is a trip to the cathedral city of Winchester to explore the food and culture of Hampshire and a day trip to one of the most beautiful cities in the south of England, Bath. I have plenty of seasonal recipes in my head ready to be worked on so please do watch this space. How does cheesy polenta with garlic mushrooms or spiced pumpkin and cream cheesecake sound? Pretty good huh?

Thank you all for sticking with me through this tricky time. I hope to be back “on it” next month. Keep checking in and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for daily updates.

Disclaimer: This blog post contains gifted items. I have not been paid for showcasing these businesses and events and as always all views are my own.

Additional photographs of Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival by Mike Rice Photography.

Additional photographs of Comptoir Libanais by Chloe Upton Studios.

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