My Favourite Albums of 2016 So Far

August 8, 2016

Music + Playlists

5 Albums I'm Loving

We’re now over halfway through and it’s shaping up to be a pretty good year for new music in my opinion, so I thought I’d share my favourite albums of 2016 so far from releases from the first half of the year.

Anohni Hopelessness

 

 

 

 

Anohni – Hopelessness 

‘Hopelessness’ is the first album under the name of Anohni, formally Anthony & The Johnson’s. The beautiful and at times heart wrenching vocals coupled with really interesting, luscious electronic track production make this a pretty spectacular album.

Beyonce_-_Lemonade_(Official_Album_Cover)

 

 

 

 

Beyonce – Lemonade

If an album’s not on Spotify there’s very little chance I’m going to buy it to be honest, so despite the buzz I didn’t get into Beyonce’s latest when it first came out. However I recently caught a screening of the accompanying ‘Lemonade’ film on Sky Atlantic and now I’m hooked. Like seriously hooked – I. Can’t. Stop. Listening. To. Bey.

damien-jurado-visions-of-us-land

 

 

 

 

Damien Jurado – Visions of Us on the Land

Considering this is his twelfth album I’m not sure how I’ve managed to not be aware of Damien Jurado up until now! I love the sprawling, psychedelic Americana feel on this record. A great album to lose yourself in on headphones or perfect summer driving music.

David Bowie_blackstar-album-cover

 

 

 

 

David Bowie – Black Star

After his death I couldn’t really bring myself to listen to ‘Black Star’: it felt too raw and morbid. I sobbed my way through my old favourites instead. I think it will always be a hard record to listen to in some ways knowing that he recorded and release it knowing that it would be his last – but also… how awesome is that? What a beautiful parting gift he left us with.

emmy-the-great-second-love-album

 

 

 

 

Emmy The Great – Second Love

Emmy the Great’s first two records are some of my most listened to albums so I was pretty excited for her long-awaited third album. After a five-year gap ‘Second Love’ has quite a different feel to Emmy’s first two albums, but I’ve been digging the new sound and the new songs sat perfectly next to her old ones when I saw her live earlier this year.

Golden Rules Golden Ticket

 

 

 

 

Golden Rules – Golden Ticket

When I’m not listening to all this indie and folk I love a bit of hip hop and Golden Ticket has been an album on heavy rotation this year. A super groovy collaboration between a London based producer Paul White and Floridian rapper Eric Biddines, the later has this brilliant Andre 3000 sort of drawl which I just love.

last-shadow-puppets-album-everything-you-come-expect

 

 

 

 

The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect

After seeing them at Bristol Summer Series at the end of June ago I’m having quite a The Last Shadow Puppets moment and it’s not all because of Alex Turner’s hips (really). ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ is a great rock & roll album.

laura gibson empire builder

 

 

 

 

Laura Gibson – Empire Builder

Although she’s not someone I’ve come across until recently, the latest album from Laura Gibson has been a big favourite of mine over the last few months. Putting me in mind of the likes of First Aid Kit and Alela Diane, Empire Builder is definitely a record to add to my ‘one day I’ll live in a cabin in the mountains‘ playlist! Beautiful, melancholic folk at it’s finest.

Matthew and the Atlas Temple

 

 

 

 

Matthew and the Atlas – Temple

More beautiful, goosebump-inducing, folky sounds; the second album from Matthew and the Atlas is just pretty darn lovely.

Savages adore life

 

 

 

 

Savages – Adore Life

It took me a while to get into Savage’s second album but now I think I prefer it to their brilliant first ‘Silence Yourself’. When only some loud music will do to fit my mood, Savages are my go-to, and if you haven’t had a chance to catch them live, do it – Jehnny Beth is hands down one of the best front people I’ve seen!

 

You can listen to all my favourite albums of 2016 so far (bar Beyonce – sorry) on Spotify. Along with my top records I’ve also been digging the new albums from Radiohead, Daughter, Cait Le Bon and Lail Arad. And with new drops just arrived or on their way from the likes of Bat For Lashes, Metronomy, Glass Animals and Avalanches I think 2016 is gonna be a good album year indeed! Do feel free to follow me on Spotify here to see what I’m listening to.

What new albums are soundtracking your life at the moment?

Photo Diary: Chasing Waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons

June 15, 2016

Photography / Travel

Brecon Beacon Waterfalls Sgwd yr Eira close upBrecon Beacon Waterfalls RiverBrecon Beacon Waterfalls In Pine Trees

Sometimes one of my favourite things about Bristol is how quickly you can escape from it!

On the late May bank holiday weekend we packed a picnic in our hire car and headed off for an adventure to go chasing waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons.

Before I’d lived in Bristol I’d only ever been to Cardiff, but over the last eight years I’ve had the chance to explore nearby Wales a lot more. I’ve loved discovering its beautiful beaches, mountains and now the incredible waterfalls in the Brecons.

Brecon Beacon Waterfalls Scramblers Brecon Beacon Waterfalls 4 falls

Each of the four waterfalls the route took us passed was stunning but without doubt the highlight was the huge Sgwd-yr-Eira fall. Being able to walking behind the wall of roaring water was pretty much magical.

The sun shone on us all day and the walk was long and tough at times but in that way that feels good and rewarding. After returning to the car for a well needed flask of tea accompanied by a melted chocolate bar we drove the scenic route through the mountains home. Such a perfect day – my favourite of the year so far.

Brecon Beacon Waterfalls in front of Sgwd yr Eira Brecon Beacon Waterfalls behind Sgwd yr Eira waterBrecon Beacon Waterfalls behind Sgwd yr Eira

The waterfall country of the Brecons isn’t exactly on our doorstep but having all this spectacular scenery within just a couple hours drive is amazing. I’d love to hire a car more regularly to explore more and I’m sure there are many beautiful escapes on the outskirts of Bristol reachable by public transport I’m yet to discover – If anyone has any tips let me know! 🍃🌿

Brecon Beacon Waterfalls Shoes

If you’re inspired to go chasing waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons yourself, the Four Waterfall trail I took started at the Cwm Porth car park, find details at breconbeacons.org.

Yonder Collective Dinner – Encounters

June 7, 2016

Food + Recipes / Life

On a rather wet evening in May 2016 I joined a group of Bristol based creative-types who gathered for the third Yonder Collective dinner. The theme for the event was ‘Encounters – encountering ordinary things in unexpected ways’.

Yonder Collective Bristol laid tableYonder Collective Dinning Tablle

For me, the first encounter of the evening was discovering the hidden gem Salt Cafe Deli, whose beautiful, light space in Hotwells provided the perfect setting for the event. At the heart of Yonder Collective dinners is the idea of collaboration with a group of people coming together to curate each event from the food to the decor. Using the theme as inspiration two large dining tables were decorated simply and stylishly. Designer Lyzi (of Being Little) elevated the menus and place setting from the ordinary using geometric and 3D shapes. These cool designs were complemented by centrepieces of geometric terrariums – each one handmade especially for the evening by the oh-so-talented Palyglass.

Perhaps the most surprising encounter for me was how much I enjoyed the drawing workshop which saw us encountering our own features in an unexpected way. I was slightly apprehensive at first but quickly got into the fun self-portrait exercises lead by Elinor John.Yonder Collective Bristol Palyglass Yonder Collective Bristol Drawing Workshop

The food for this Yonder Collective dinner was provide by Griffet Catering, whose delicious seasonal menu perfectly captured the theme of the evening. The canapés which wound their way round the room were as intriguing as they were delicious. Fresh, crisp baby veg in smoked aubergine puree delivered on trowels, smoking boxes containing hops flavoured crisps, mackerel lolly pops and the prettiest morsels of edible flowers all provided the perfect talking point to break the ice with the first companions we found ourselves seated with. Not that the flow of conversation needed much encouragement!

Yonder Collective Bristol Edible Garden Yonder Collective Bristol CanpesYonder Collective Bristol Lamb Chops

Moving seats twice during the course of the evening was a great way to get a chance to meet a wider variety of people. As we enjoyed a fantastic main of Spring Lamb, a delightful dessert of Doughnut and rhubarb and a few glasses of wine I found myself sat next to designers, bloggers, teachers, makers, business owners and photographers. Topics of conversation were wide and varied ranging from creativity and business to our favourite spots to eat in Bristol and connecting through social media. In fact the latter was a topic that came up again and again as it became apparent that most people present had discovered and connected with Yonder Collective through Instagram. Social Media is my profession but also quite a passion of mine and being in a room full of wonderful people who had been brought together through its connective power brought joy to this Instagram addict’s soul! (You can see me snapping away in the photo below 😁)

Yonder Collective Bristol from aboveYonder Collective Bristol Place Setting

Forging new connections and feasting on amazing food was the most wonderful way to spend an evening at Yonder Collective and I left feeling energised and inspired by the creativity and the passion of the people I’d encountered.

Visit the Yonder Collective site for more information and to sign up to find out about future events.

The evening’s creative team

Yonder Collective founder Emma Chapman-Burnet
Photography by Kym Grimshaw
Illustration by Lyzi Unwin
Terrariums by Palyglass
Food by Griffet Catering
Drawing workshop with Elinor John
Creative Consultant – Rebecca Storey

All wonderful photos featured (apart from the last) by the awesome Kym Grimshaw who’s lovely food blog On The Plate should be added to your bookmarks post-haste!

Seasons In The Frame – So Fresh, So Green

May 15, 2016

Photography

Montpellier Train Station In the Rain

I’m one of those annoying people that genuinely quite likes a rainy day. During the inevitable downpours which followed the recent glorious weather everyone seemed to be lamenting the change in weather like that was it for summer; whereas I was feeling pretty chirpy and especially marvelling at how the word suddenly seemed so green. And of course documenting the fact through my iPhone…

St Michael's Hill St Michael on the Mount Without, Bristol St Michael's on the Mount Without Front

Over the last few years I feel that I have been much more aware of the changing of the seasons than I used to be. I knew it was all going on of course but I’m sure I didn’t notice in the same way the signs of spring as they appeared… the bright daffodil blooms being followed by beautiful blossoms which in turn give way to all this luscious green.

Maybe it’s getting older or a stronger desire to seek out nature amongst city life, but in truth I think the shift in awareness is actually an interesting by-product of my ever increasing love of iPhonography and the desire to share snippets of my life in pretty little squares on Instagram. Like being more aware of the seasonal change in surroundings, I look at everything in a slightly different way these days – noticing the colours, the light and moments happening around me as I go about my daily life. If something catches my eye I may well get my phone out and snap away but also often I don’t. I understand where the argument that our constant craving to document can take one out of the moment is coming from but for me I disagree; I believe the potential for a perfect shot actually makes me more present.

Rainy Day King Square Bristol

What do you think my fellow insta-obssessed? I’d love to know if the #JustGoShoot mentality has had an effect on your world view.

Follow me on Insta at @_charlieswift or for more off-the-cuff snaps I’m on Snapchat as charlieswift.

Food Photographer of the Year

May 4, 2016

Food + Recipes

Food Photographer of the Year Octopus On IceFood Photographer of the Year Pink CressFood Photographer of the Year Grilled CheeseFood Photographer of the Year CrawfishFood Photographer of the Year Wild Garlic

The Food Photographer of the Year finalists were announced last week and they are so stunning I had to share a few of my favourites. Check out the full gallery of finalists at www.pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com.

I love the variation in the categories and the different food stories the images tell. My food styling and photography is something I’m always working to improve on so I find these shots immensely inspiring! I will be pinning lots to my Food Photography Inspiration Pinterest board.

Speaking of foodie inspiration, I just had the most wonderful food filled weekend at Bristol Food Connections. More than your average food festival, there were events taking place across the city all bank holiday. We took in some brilliant talks and demos, discovered some great artisan producers and drank our way round the East Bristol Brewery trail. My highlight was a Gather, Ferment, Flame demo with Gill Meller from River Cottage and Matthew Pennington from The Ethicurean. The Ethicurean is my very favourite restaurant so it was great to see chef Pennington in action and pick up some tips for fermenting veg at home.

(All images sourced via www.pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com)

Our Honeymoon in The Lake District

April 26, 2016

Love + Marriage / Travel

Lodge

Since our wedding day in September last year, seven months have flown quickly by. I don’t think I really experienced post wedding blues as such; however I often find myself daydreaming of our honeymoon in the Lake District where we spent our days outdoors amongst the most spectacular scenery as we took time to unwind and just be together, basking in the afterglow of a beautiful wedding weekend.

A south-west girl through and though, I’d never been to the Lake District before and I was completely blown away by the beautiful landscape. Having just tied-the-knot on the rugged South Devon coast I feel like, during that wonderful late summer week, we really got to experience some of the very best of our country’s wilderness! Whether by the sea, in the woods or amongst the mountains, my mind and soul are just more content when spending time outdoors. Better still is getting the chance to stay, cook and eat in the open air and sleep under the stars.

The Lodge Cumbria Canopy and Stars

I knew the moment I discovered The Lodge on Canopy & Stars it was the place for us to honeymoon, some people may dream of posh 5* hotels – give me a secluded cabin in the woods! That’s certainly not to say our stay at the beautiful log cabin, set on Edenhall Estate near Penrith, wasn’t completely luxurious. Walking down through the woodland path and discovering The Lodge sat in its clearing by a river bend was nothing short of magical!

It’s hard to imagine a place more peaceful and tranquil; sat on the porch of the cabin watching for signs of wildlife, listening to the sound of the river, surrounded by tall pine trees with the glimpse of mountains in the distance – it was the perfect romantic hideaway.

Supper on the porchSupper at The Lodge Canopy & Stars Cumbrischarlie at the lodge

Although reluctant to step in from the outdoors, once the chill of the evening brought us in we spent the cosiest of nights playing backgammon in front of the wood burner before retreating up the wrought-iron staircase to bed. The large tent shaped window that features in the cabin’s master bedroom means that you can enjoy the river side view in the morning with a cup of tea whilst remaining snug in bed!

WoodburnerCast Iron stair case Master bedroomAlthough I could have easily spent all day sat on that porch The Lodge was also the ideal base to get out and explore the Lakes. We were delighted to discover the gorgeous walk up Gummer’s How situated just south of Lake Windermere. Although Gummer’s How is a relatively small peak by Lake District standard it is the highest point in the immediate area and therefore boasts the most spectacular panoramic views. Passing beautiful fell cows that graze along the route, the ramble up is gentle but rugged enough in places to make you feel like you’ve earned the sights that greet you at the summit.

View from Gummer's How WindermereView from Gummer's How Windermererings at gummers how

Aside from having the most dreamy honeymoon lodgings and being immersed in awe-inspiring landscapes our trip was topped off with the fact that Cumbria is a foodie’s paradise, not surprising considering the wealth of wonderful local produce.

Our beautiful stay was so special; relaxing and enjoying time outdoors was exactly what we needed after the crazy run up to the wedding but there’s so much more I’d love to explore in the Lake District – It’s definitely somewhere I can see us returning to again and again.

A Glimpse Into… 280 Bakes – Bristol Home Bakery & Cake Delivery

April 17, 2016

Food + Recipes

Vegan Ginger Cake on marble with Pink Blossom
280 Bakes is a home bakery and cake delivery service in Bristol. Along with a monthly home bakery on the third Sunday of every month from their base in Lawrence Weston, 280 Bakes delivers traditional home bakes such as banana loaf and carrot cake to homes and businesses in and around Bristol. As well as the comforting classics 280 Bakes creates show stopping occasion cakes for weddings and birthdays and specialises in vegan bakes such as the delicious vegan ginger bread which was delivered to me.

When 280 Bakes founder Louise reached out on Twitter I was intrigued to find out how she has turned her passion for baking into a business.

// How did 280 Bakes come to be?

I have always baked, mainly for home and friends, but in December last year I baked what I thought I wasn’t able; I discovered new skills in my reindeer cake! Being fairly new to Bristol, I decided to try a home bakery where I could meet the neighbours over some cakes, and business has grown since then. We now deliver #CakeOD (cake on demand) on daily specials across Bristol, and bake cakes to order for homes, businesses and special occasions. we’re proud to specialise in vegan cakes, and we’re proud to have some wonderful reviews.

// What cakes are most popular with the different 280 bake customers?

The customer favourite of the cakes we bake regularly is our banana loaf. It’s low fat, and apple sauce is in the list of ingredients. It’s always been a favourite in my family, and it’s great to be able to share it with our customers. Our main customer base are vegans, as we specialise in vegan bakes, but we also bake to order for ‘normal’ cake eaters and people who are egg or gluten free.

Vegan Gingerbread on Marble with Pink Blossom Closeup

// In a culture obsessed with the “latest thing” how much do you pay attention to foodie trends for your baking?

We do pay attention to ‘cake news and trends’, reading blogs and industry news, but a lot of them are a little outside of our average customer’s comfort zone. We love that coconut is ‘fashionable’ at the moment… a special on #cakeOD will be coconut next week – and we call it ‘coconut dream cake’, so it’ll be good! [ I have ] a thing against popping candy. I don’t ever want to hear things popping in my mouth – the idea to put popping candy into a cake makes me shiver!

// With plenty of options for customers looking for gluten free, dairy free or vegan options; is it important to you to cater for a range of dietary requirements?

Yes, our bakery is aimed mainly at vegans and provides a wide range of vegan cake options, but we do also bake for other dietary requirements – including for people who have no restrictions or preferences! [ I ] went through a period of time where [ I ] couldn’t eat bread, and know how challenging it can be to find what you need and want, so 280 Bakes is proud to be able to help people who may not necessarily think they can still enjoy cake.

Aside from vegan cakes (carrot cake is the favourite here!), we also have found recent taste tests of our gluten-free chocolate brownies by people who eat gluten-free have gone well.

// As I myself discovered 280 Bakes though Twitter I’m curious to know what role you feel social media plays in the running of your business?

Social media has had a big impact on 280 Bakes’s business. The majority of our orders come from Facebook, followed by Twitter and then word-of-mouth. We are lucky enough to have social media experts in our team who know a few tricks which help a business along, but we’re also glad of the support that ‘friends of 280 Bakes’ give us through retweets and sharing our content. We couldn’t do it without amazing local organisations like Social Enterprise Works and Ambition Lawrence Weston.

Vegan Gingerbread On Marble With Pink Blossom Sliced

// What do like most about living and working in Bristol? Any recommendations foodie or otherwise?

Bristol has so much to offer, we are very lucky to have such a wide variety of places to eat and to try something new. As foodies, that’s great for us, but we also love the green spaces. Blaise Castle isn’t far from 280 Bakes HQ, and we’re often found stretching our leg up there. Bristol is by far and away the best place I have lived and worked. There’s a real buzz about business, being environmentally friendly (which is important to 280 Bakes), and the people have been so welcoming. I wouldn’t move away now!

// Is there anything 280 Bakes is especially proud of?

We are proud to support Fairtrade with our fairtrade banana loaf (customer favourite), and we are very proud to be chosen as a local cake and bread supplier for the Avonmouth Real Food Group. At home and work, we try to source local ingredients whenever possible, to reduce our environmental impact, and local buying groups like this one are key to this success when you have a small or no garden!

// And finally when you’re not baking what’s you favourite thing to cook or eat?

Curry is a favourite within 280 Bakes, as is lasagne, anything barbecued, sea bass… We’ll try anything, really!

Vegan Gingerbread on marble with Pink Blossom Closeup

Many thanks to Louise for giving a glimpse into her business 280 Bakes. If you’re Bristol based and fancy delicious cake delivered for you next meeting or special occasion (or just because!) order online from 280 Bakes at 280bakes.weebly.com, Twitter & Facebook, or visit their home bakery the third Sunday of each month at 280 Broadlands DriveBristol, BS11 0PW.

Sunday Best: Favourite Links from the Month of March

April 3, 2016

Life

Blue painted potting shed

Sunday Best is a monthly series where I share the best links, bits & pieces I’ve found on my travels around social media and the web.

Kicking off with my 30th and a surprise trip to Bruges March has been pretty hectic – trips away to visit family, house hunting. All good fun of course but I’m welcoming April and hoping it brings a chance to slow down and recharge before summer time begins.

Here’s a few things which caught my eye in March…

// One of my favourite jewellery brands Wolf & Moon have released a lovely new collection.

// I love Wild Garlic season!

// Now That’s What I Call Music compilations ranked from best to worst.

// Emmy The Great’s new album Second Love is beautiful. It was a joy to see her live again in Bristol this month.

// I think this letter exchange is a wonderful idea.

// Not sure about this year’s Glasto line up.

// I want to make this Smoky Chipotle Hummus

// Powerpuff yourself!

Cook It: Hasselback Potatoes

March 28, 2016

Food + Recipes

Hassleback Potatoes Cooked Close Up

I’m not really a potato person, how ever they come I tend to find them the least interesting part of a meal –  even the most perfect roasties get left on my plate after a roast dinner (shock horror I know!), but I think these Hasselbacks may have me converted.

After seeing them pop up in my Instagram feed regularly this year I think you can file this one under #FoodTrend, but a trend for a good reason as aside from being the prettiest potatoes you ever did see they may well be the tastiest too! A perfect combo, somewhere between baked, sautéed, chips and roast potatoes, they are versatile and work well as a side dish to all sorts of dishes.

Hassleback potatos prepHassleback potatos uncooked tray

Method

Scrub and dry your potatoes if needed. Working along the length of the potato make multiple cuts stopping at around a 1/4 inch from the bottom. Take care at each end but don’t worry if you chop the ends off entirely as I often do!

Placing the potatoes on a baking tray, drizzle throughly in olive oil, add herbs or spices and season with salt & pepper. Bake in the oven for at least an hour until crispy on the outside and cooked through.

For the fresh herb dressing topping as pictured, blend a handful of coriander and parsley with a clove of garlic; mix with olive oil, season to taste and spoon over the cooked hasselbacks.

Variations

– Bake with herbs of your choice – bay, rosemary, thyme or fennel seeds would work well.
– Try spices instead. Think paprika or dried chipotle flakes for a spiced smokey vibe,
– Smother with your favourite cheese for the last 5-10 minutes of baking and serve with mayo and dips for a tasty take on ‘loaded potato skins’.

Hassleback Potatoes

Hassleback Potatoes Cooked

This is without doubt my new favourite way with potatoes. Let me know what you think if you give them a try.

Playlist: Signs Of Spring

March 22, 2016

Music + Playlists

Cherry Blossom Against Blue Sky

Here’s one I made early… I created this playlist last year but have been falling for it all over again now that spring in the air. For me this sweet collection of tracks captures the joyous but changeable nature of the season; with plenty of weather references thrown in for good measure.

Check it out and save to your Spotify playlists via the player below.

Track List

Alex Turner – It’s Hard To Get Around The Wind
José González – Leaf Off / The Cave
Alt-J – Taro
Laura Marling – False Hope
Graham Coxon – Perfect Love
Got A Girl – There’s A Revolution
Sylvan Esso – Dress
SOAK – Sea Creatures
Ibeyi – Weatherman

My last playlist: Women On Womanhood

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