This is the view from our front door, forget the rest of the house this view alone had us sold before we even set foot inside. Even now I have to pinch myself a little bit that I get to look at this as I get dressed in the morning and as I shut the curtains at night. Whilst we don’t live in the Brecon Beacons National Park itself those hills opposite are inside the boundaries and we pass that lovely burning beacon sign every time we drive somewhere.
The Western side of the Brecon Beacons is definitely less well known than the Eastern side with Abergavenny, Crickhowell and Brecon to name a few towns that are firmly on the tourist and outdoor enthusiast paths. But I encourage you to drive a little further and explore this quieter side and the area towards mid Wales. Simply stunning and you’ll find some fabulous small towns with independent shops and quiet forests where you can go for miles without seeing another person.
Not that we knew much about this area when we started looking, but the more we saw the more we realised we’d discovered some wonderful. The search brought us this direction purely from a monetary point of view, as we widened our search area North from where my job is we discovered our budget went that little further and ticked a few more boxes on the wish list. (if we could have stretched another 100k it could have bought the perfect house, always the way of course). For us the location also worked for my commute towards Swansea, about 50 minutes door to door, which isn’t perfect but is doable. However coming home and slotting back into countrylife soon makes it ok.
Helllooo – ooo – ooo, is anyone there, there , there? *Taps on screen* So, it’s, ahem, been a while. 2 months shy of 2 years in fact since I posted here, I’ve written a few posts over on my running blog but fair to say I’ve lost the urge to write.
But an awful lot has changed since that last post (still making awesome sourdough though which was the subject of that last post), we’ve moved countries for one. Which is the main subject for this post, I thought it was about time I shared a little update about this Welsh adventure we’ve embarked on and some of the plans we’re making for the future.
I’ve written in the past about the dream of finding a job that isn’t in an office, or a job that is more closely linked to my passion for running, cycling and the outdoors. The Lady of the Manor and I have also always dreamed of owning a smallholding and trying to live a simpler life. So at the end of 2017 as I found myself in a job that I really wasn’t enjoying and was becoming quite stressful we decided to stop talking about the dream and just get on and do it. After all, if it doesn’t work out we could always move back again.
So that’s the reason why we decided to make a change but where does Wales fit in? Quite simply Wales ticks a lot of boxes for us; the countryside is stunning and perfect for running and cycling, house prices are lower if you’re willing to be away from the major south coast cities (perfect for us) but there are still reasonable employment opportunities for us both. What we hadn’t expected to find was such great small towns full of life and independent shops or such a welcoming and fun community, particularly at school.
There is something quite magical about sourdough, this glorious loaf that miraculously rises from some water, flour and salt. When you explain to someone for the first time how it’s made they never quite believe that it’s possible or for that matter just how easy it is. Sure the process to make sourdough takes some time and some patience, but in terms of actually doing something to make it the time taken is less than 20 minutes. Once you have a starter that works and get into the cycle of feeding it and making a loaf you will soon become addicted to baking what is rightly known as the king of loaves.
Being the good social media user that I am I of course post photos of these wonderful loaves when I bake them at the weekend just to make sure folk know exactly how awesome I am. Over the past month or so this has resulted in a few people asking me for the recipe so they can have a go at baking a sourdough loaf themselves. I happily obliged and wrote up my method and recipe to share because what can be better than spreading the sourdough love? Unfortunately they are now doing their best to upstage me and make better sourdough than I do, but I shall try not to hold a grudge.
The recipe is mostly based on one from the Fabulous Baking Brothers (of Hobbs House bakery, makers of truly amazing bread) with a few tweaks I’ve learnt along the way. I thought it would be useful to share the recipe here also rather than sending it out on email each time. There are a few approaches to making sourdough but some seem a lot more complicated than this and this simple, straightforward approach seems to work well so why make things harder?
If you ever wondered about sourdough and the mystery of how to make it please do give it a go, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make something so tasty. There is definitely no better time of year to start either, as the days get noticeably shorter and colder a warm slice of sourdough with butter on is just the tonic! If you do decide to have a go please do share the results, I’d love to see them. Always happy to answer any questions you may have too.
Before moving onto the recipe I thought I’d share some photos of the loaves others have made with this recipe, if this doesn’t convince you to have a try I don’t know what will.
I can remember the first time we visited Father Christmas with the children, it was Matilda’s 2nd Christmas and we thought it would be one of those perfect parenting moments. She’d be enchanted by all the pretty lights and Christmas activities and then sit with Father Christmas and chat about what she wanted for Christmas. The reality was a child who cried when they saw Father Christmas and refused to go anywhere near him or his grotto so we took our free present and left. Since then things have got a better and I think we’re reaching peak excitement about Father Christmas before she gets a little older and starts to hear rumblings about whether he’s real or not. So when Wyevale invited us to meet Father Christmas over breakfast at our local Wyevale garden centre (he was stopping by to buy some carrot seeds) I jumped at the chance.
As we all know Father Christmas gets around the country and you can meet him in many places these days from the classic school fayre to a restored steam train and who knows what else in between. But I really quite enjoyed meeting him over breakfast; it’s quite a relaxed and civilised environment that doesn’t involve queuing or crowds and with the garden centre not open for business it was lovely and quiet. Plus of course it meant I could eat a cooked breakfast and drink coffee while the children met Father Christmas, perfect!
I love having a big family, seeing the different personalities of them develop and watching them play and bond as siblings is wonderful. Clearly it’s also noisy, chaotic and exhausting at times (I challenge anyone to spend a day alone with a 2 year old who is constantly moving and shouting and not feel knackered), you are also generally outnumbered. However when it comes to going out (ever seen a family ticket that includes 3 children?) or buying a car having 3 children is quite frustrating. Throw in the need to also have room for a dog when buying a car and the choice starts to become very small when you need to fit 3 car seats across the back row. We went away for 2 nights with the children and the dog recently and could have done with a roof box for luggage, Bracken’s crate takes up half the boot and a pushchair takes up half the remaining space!
I’m starting a new job in January and will be handing back my company car in a couple of weeks so we’re once again searching for cars even though we pretty much know what the choices are. They really haven’t changed much since we last looked 2 years ago and can be summarised as follows:
Back in the day when I was a ‘proper’ blogger actually writing regularly and joining in with the community one of my favourite blogging activities was taking part in the Listography. A simple premise; each week there was a theme or topic and we had to write our own list for that topic. Well the wonderful Kate Takes 5 has been reviving this meme and in particular this week to celebrate her 6th anniversary as a blogger. Clearly there was something in the air 6 years ago as I started my own blog a week before Kate (my first ever post is here if you’re interested) and I know that a couple of my other favourites (like Hello it’s Gemma) also started around the same time, late 2010 was a good vintage! Although I’m nowhere near Kate’s milestone from a stats perspective, for whatever reason I’ve never had masses of page views, but as I’ve always said having engaged readers who comment and interact is definitely more valuable to me than any stat.
To celebrate this blogging milestone the theme for the Listography is my 5 favourite posts so without further ado here’s my list. Would love to know what you think of my choices and if you’re a blogger why not join in yourself?
Top of the list HAS to be what I view as my blogging peak, an idea that most likely came to me while out running (like most of my good ideas do) and is probably the post that I’m most proud of. I love that it features some awesome dad bloggers, most of whom I still chat to and have even met in person on a number of occasions. It may also be the only Christmas post ever written that features a singing Sooty. The post is of course the 12 dads of Christmas.
It’s 11 weeks since I published a post here and coincidentally that was only the 11th post I’ve published in the whole year, in writing terms that’s fast approaching a drought, one that surely must leave my 1 reader (hi mum) gasping for more? But it isn’t due to not having any ideas, those whoosh into my head on a regular basis while out running, but rather simply not having enough time or space in my brain to actually sit down and write something. I have 3 priorities in my life; family, work and running (not necessarily in that order) and once you add the need to sleep at least 6 hours a night it doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else.
But right now, sat in a cottage in the middle of the black mountains in Wales I do have time. It’s ever so peaceful, with just the occasional creak from the wood burner as the metal expands a little due to the roaring fire inside and the sound of Bracken snoring from his position curled up at the bottom of the stairs.. The beauty of being away somewhere is you don’t have chores to do, I’m certainly not going to catch up on work email and with no Netflix there’s nothing to watch on TV either. So I’m grabbing this rare moment where the stars align to empty my brain of at least one of those blog posts that has been whizzing around.
You could sense from the children today that they’re also enjoying this slower paced life without the normal daily routines, after dinner today they put their pyjamas on and just played happily on the rug by the fire while the lady of the manor and I enjoyed a little glass of wine (it is a holiday after all). We all needed this holiday, a break from the routine and intensity which is the subject matter for this post; the school travelator.