My Intentional Year: A Gentle January

January 27, 2018

INTENTION

A Gentle January blog title

In my last post I shared that I’ve not made any resolutions this New Year, instead of focusing on plans and goals I’d like 2018 to be the year for being more mindful and intentional. Rather than think about what I want to achieve each month, when I take some time to set my intentions for the coming few weeks I’ll be thinking about how I want things to feel and what mindset I want to cultivate as I navigate through my days. To help guide me I’m choosing a word for the month that encapsulates these feelings.

This month, I knew that more than anything I wanted to prioritise going slowly, taking things easy and being kind to myself and my family as we adjust our new lives together. So my guiding word for January has been gentle. Although you’d hope a new mum would know not to put too much pressure on herself I’m afraid it’s all too easy to let those nagging, negative thoughts creep in. When overwhelmed by tiredness – thinking I should be doing better or achieving more, it’s been helpful to come back to the idea of gentle and g e n t l y reassess how I’m approaching or feeling about a moment or situation.

bunch of gypsophila baby's breath lace ribbon handsbunch of gypsophila baby's breath lace ribbon

New baby aside, I think we all need a reminder, especially at this time of year, to approach things in life more gently. You’d think that after a month dedicated to spreading joy and cheer it wouldn’t be so difficult, but it seems as though after the excess of the festive season, January brings about a collective guilt trip. Dry January, Vegan January, a plastic-free month – as worthwhile as these lifestyle changes may be, I can’t help but feel that they still come from a place of beating ourselves up!

Last week’s Blue Monday may be mainly there to give marketers something to Tweet about during a slow season, but there certainly seems to be more people suffering from the blues during January. Even us ardent winter-lovers are searching for signs of spring! When things seem a little bleak ‘gentle’ seems to be a good solution. Gentle doesn’t tell you to “cheer up” or “try harder”; Gentle instead speaks of not being to hard on yourself and of sitting with those uncomfortable feelings knowing they will pass.

And yes, I know there’s only a few days left of January, but maybe, as we come to the end of this long month, it’s the perfect time to have a little check in. And if your 2018 hasn’t got off to the best start I hope you can choose to be gentle with yourself.

Join the conversation on Instagram using the hashtag #myintentionalyear to share your gentle moments this month.

My Intentional Year

January 8, 2018

INTENTION

My Intentional Year

It’s that time of year for reflecting on the past twelve months and making plans for the next. Although I love that fresh start, clean slate feeling that January brings, it seems these days, we’re mostly in agreement that a ‘new year new me’ mentality is not a sustainable way of bringing about real change. Read more, eat well, buy better, declutter, write more, exercise – whatever your list looks like, a generic and vague set of life ‘improvements’ only serves to become something to beat ourselves up about come the end of a long winter. That’s why this new year, I’m choosing to focus on intentions rather than outcomes or achievements.

If there are goals, dreams or habit-shifts you’d like to see come about in 2018, then by all means, lay them out and take steps to work towards them. However, I think it’s important not to get caught up in the big picture and be sure to focus on what is needed for this particular season, month or moment of your life.

This is especially apparent for me right now as I start the year as a new mum with a one-month-old baby. I have no idea what the next couple of weeks will look like or demand from me, let alone the next few months or rest of the year. That said, although I might not know what to expect from our day-to-day, I do have an idea of how I’d like to navigate our new lives together.I want to prioritise quality time and connection. I would like to be present in the moment as much as possible; to remember all the fleeting little details and find meaningful ways to document them. I want to be mindful of my emotions and ride out the tougher times without spiralling into negativity and becoming overwhelmed.

dried hydrangea petals in hands dried hydrangea petals

I know that when I’m living more intentionally I’m calmer and more content. Not mindlessly scrolling on my phone; knowing my limitations and not trying to do everything at once, taking time for reflection, meditation and mindfulness – the actions that help me feel aligned may well look different now my priorities have changed but by keeping intentionality at the forefront I hope to be able to bring about that same sense of calm.

I’m starting my intentional year by deliberately taking January gently and slowly. If you’re not feeling the New Year buzz (or maybe you’ve already lost it) then I recommend emerging into 2018 gradually, without putting pressure on yourself this month. I’ll be publishing a post later this week on having a gentle January.

My plan intention is to share my journey into a more intentional year here on the blog and over on Instagram using the hashtag #MyIntentionalYear. I’d love it if you would like to join in with the tag to share your own moments of intentional living this year.

How are you feeling about the new year? My friends online seemed to fall into two camps –  those who are raring to go and those who would rather ease themselves gently into the new year.

The Babe With The Power

January 7, 2018

NURTURE

New Born photography baby boy

Casper Bowie Swift, our baby boy, made his grand entrance into the world a month ago on December the sixth at 4.06 in the afternoon, weighing in at 6lb 6.

He was born in water and delivered at the wonderful midwife-led centre in Bristol, Cossham Hospital. I’ll save my birth story for another time, but the experience was everything I could have hoped for – natural, intimate, intense but also very calm.

With a due date of the twelfth, we had spent much of the last nine months worrying that our baby’s birthday would be very near or even on Christmas Day. I joke about it, but I honestly would not have believed any child of mine would be early. Anyhow, at 39 weeks he was good and ready to join us Earth-side, in plenty of time to be completely oblivious to our quiet Christmas Day celebrations a few weeks later as a new family of three.

A month in and he’s already changed so much. Our diddy delicate little newborn is transforming before our eyes as he grows. His kicks are getting strong and those little headbutts he throws hurt!! I must have already kissed that head over a thousand times and have taken hundreds of photos. I want to remember all the little details of this first stage; his little hand gestures that seem to convey so much expression; the manic wild thing he becomes when he’s ready to feed; the sweet satisfied coos and sighs; the way he stares with his old-soul eyes, taking in the new world around him.New Born photography baby boy

New born photography baby boy

The first month of parenthood has been beautiful, raw and humbling. I’ve quickly surrendered to being woken after 45 minutes sleep, being covered in bodily fluid and having to do most things one handed. There’s been tougher times and tears but the magical moments have far outweighed the overwhelming ones.

I’m already bursting with love and pride for this little person I’m only just getting to know. As we pack away his first newborn outfits the feelings are bittersweet, I can’t believe how quickly this first month together has flown by but I’m so excited to see him grow and see my little Starman’s personality emerge.

Taking Stock: The end of the third trimester at the begining of December

December 5, 2017

NURTURE

Taking Stock December

Back with Blogmas day five. I maaay have cheated a little and backdated the last couple of post to catch up but hey, done is better than perfect and all that.

For today’s post, I’ve taken inspiration from my friend Franky who recently shared a Taking Stock post on her blog Love Audrey. I believe the original prompt comes via meetmeatmikes.com. I thought it was a lovely way to have a little catch-up and capture a snapshot of this moment in time. Of course for me right now that means all things nesting, christmassy and waiting for the arrival of baby swift.

Here’s what I’m…

Making // A birth playlist. Going for mellow, chilled out folky albums and some favourite soundtracks. What did you have on yours?
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Cooking // Hearty dishes batch cooked and frozen for eating during those postpartum days, although our tiny freezer is now full!
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Drinking // Raspberry leaf tea as I’ve heard it helps to strengthen the uterus wall! Might as well give these things a go eh?
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Reading // ‘The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother‘ and rereading Northern Lights for some cosy non-pregnancy related escapism.
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Trawling // Online for a unisex baby sleep sack which isn’t overly cutesy and not too pricey. Went for this one, our baby’s wardrobe features so much grey!
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Wanting // To sleep through the night, pregnancy insomnia is still going strong. And, yes I know, sleep is soon to be a thing of the past anyhow.
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Looking // Forward to this new chapter of life.
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Deciding // To join Me & Orla’s new ‘Gloom & Grow’ course. Even though I know I’m not be able to follow along in the next few weeks.
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Wishing // My tax return could do itself.
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Enjoying // Stocking our cupboards with Christmassy treats.
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Waiting // For any signs of labour. Could be tomorrow, could be another three weeks – it’s a funny time not knowing when it will happen.
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Liking // Getting friends and family to place their bets on when the baby will arrive. You can add your guess to my Instagram post here.
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Wondering // Who’s in there?!
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Loving // Our new La Redoute rug and leather vintage armchair – upping the cosiness of our living room ten-fold.
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Pondering // On the culture of ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ and how to achieve a balanced gender-neutral approach without going OTT and driving myself mad.
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Listening // To our Hypno-birthing relaxation track and birth affirmations.
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Considering // What to cook for a Christmas for two. We’ll be at home with a newborn so I know it has to be easy and simple but still…it’s Christmas!
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Buying // Oh so much – even trying to keep things minimal this baby-prep requires a whole lot of stuff!
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Watching // The OA on Netflix finally.
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Hoping // That I get to enjoy a little while longer on maternity leave before the baby arrives, but also that they are here before Christmas…asking for too much?!
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Marvelling // Constantly at just how chilly our house gets!
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Cringing // At the idea that people are going to hear me on Lucy’s What She Said podcast – but honoured to be interviewed!
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Needing // The last couple of items for the hospital bag – big black knickers and nipple cream…TMI?
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Smelling // That real Christmas tree smell!
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Wearing // Stretchy trousers, my new Mere Souer tee and a big cosy cardie.
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Noticing // Little feet in my ribs and baby hiccups almost everyday.
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Knowing // Life is about to change forever.
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Trouble-shooting // Our central heating.
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Thinking // About everything and everyone I’m grateful for. Especially such a wonderfully supportive husband, who is taking his role of birthing partner very seriously.
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Admiring // Everything in the gorgeous new collection from A Woodland Gathering.
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Bookmarking // Instagram posts from amazing, inspiring mammas. I love the way the IG community shares their struggles along with the joy and I’m saving posts I know I can return to for a boost of support and solidarity when needed.
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Opening // Chocolate that I was saving for Christmas.
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Closing // Up shop. After just over a year of being self-employed I’m taking stock and taking a break as I start maternity leave. It’s scary and exciting!
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Feeling // Full of energy on some days and all tuckered-out on others.
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Dreaming // About birth a lot, some are amazing empowering dreams, some straight-up nightmares.
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Hearing // That husband of mine learning to play Christmas songs on his ukulele.
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Celebrating // Good friends getting married and a fair few baby showers too.
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Embracing // Nesting and resting on repeat!

My Winter Playlist

December 3, 2017

LISTEN

It’s all a bit “here’s one I made earlier” for Blogmas post day three. This is a playlist I return to every year around this time. A playlist of songs that aren’t quite Chrismassy but seem to evoke the seasonal spirit.

It’s perfect if you’re feeling festive but you have already had your fill of Mariah…maybe you’re a Grinchy Christmas music hater, or maybe you just love folky types singing about winter – either way, this one’s for you!

Winter Winds: Track List

Kate Bush – Army Dreamers
Antony and the Johnsons – For Today I am A Boy
Mumford & Sons – Winter Winds
Laura Marling – Goodbye England Covered In Snow
Martin Grech – Push
The Staves – Winter Trees
Joni Mitchell – River
Matthew and the Atlas – Come Out Of The Woods
Rufus Wainwright – Hallelujah

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Check out my other playlists and recommendations in the Music + Playlists series.

Pregnancy Massage with Relax Bristol

December 2, 2017

INTENTION / NURTURE

Relax Bristol Pregnancy Massage Table

In collaboration with Relax Bristol.

Trying out Relax Bristol’s pregnancy massage could not have come at a better time…As I headed into the third trimester those aches and pains associated with pregnancy that you hear about, really began to kick in. I had to quickly make a few lifestyle changes, choosing the bus or train where I would have usually rushed about on foot and I had to start leaving my computer at home instead of lugging around for meetings and later pay the price physically. Despite doing my best to make sensible decisions not to push myself I’d often wake up feeling achy and sore after a bad night’s sleep with my hips, back, shoulders and neck reminding me that they’re baring the strain of growing a little human.

A local independent company, Relax Bristol offer massage treatments in your own home. With customers being able to book a massage treatment at a time and date that suits them, including evenings and weekends. Alongside pregnancy massage, Relax Bristol’s therapists can provide a whole range of therapies including Thai massage, reflexology, sports massage and bespoke treatments. The online booking process is super simple and with a just few clicks, you’ll have a confirmation that an experienced massage therapist will arrive at your preferred time, ready with their equipment and oil to effectively transform your living room into a home spa. You can even book a massage for the same day!

I decided to book my treatment for the Friday before we headed off on our babymoon. My thinking was it would be a lovely way to begin a week dedicated to relaxing, self-care and quality time unwinding with my husband. It turned out that Friday would also happen to be the end of a very stressful week. After days of battling a broken computer and feeling like I was falling behind on my workload, let’s just say I was *tense*! Certainly not the productive week I’d planned in order to feel good about taking a week off. Although I was tempted to cancel my appointment and use every last moment to play catch up, I’m sure glad I didn’t as, of course, it was exactly what I needed to release the tension and help let the stress go.

Relax Bristol Pregnancy Massage Candles at homeDining room Relax Bristol Pregnancy Massage

Relax Bristol had included suggestions for how to prepare myself and my space for receiving a treatment at home and I decided to fully embrace the idea of creating a spa-like environment. I lit candles, burnt my favourite essential oil and chose some relaxing background music. When my therapist Olga arrived right on time, she effortlessly set up her table, finishing my dining room’s transformation into a treatment room.

Before she began Olga was sure to check on the details of my pregnancy, confirming how many weeks along I was and if I’d experienced any particular issues that she should be aware of and checked if I was happy for her to massage my bump – understandably, not all pregnant ladies like having their tummies touched. Olga, and the other Relax Bristol therapists that can be booked for pregnancy massage, have gone through training to provide a treatment that is specifically comfortable and safe for pregnant women. The treatment felt mostly quite similar to other massages I’ve had before, apart from having to lie on my side opposed to my front to allow Olga to work on my back. I was instructed to lay on my left side as this improves circulation and blood flow to the placenta and a cushion was placed under my bump for extra comfort.

As I closed my eyes and relaxed into receiving the massage, I can’t quite explain how wonderful it felt to not only have the tension of the week melt away but also have all this attention given to my aching body that has been working so hard and going through the most intense period of change. Instead of letting my mind wander whilst receiving my massage, I chose to focus on my body and cultivate some internal loving kindness – something I’ve learned through my meditation practice. I extended gratitude to the part of my body being worked on and consciously released any tension I was holding.

I felt so relaxed after the hour-long treatment and having a therapist come to my home meant that I could fully enjoy that post-massage feeling. It really was the perfect way to let go of all that stress ahead of our babymoon week away. I would urge any fellow pregnant ladies to think about booking a massage for themselves or better yet – wouldn’t it make a perfect baby shower or Christmas gift for a mum-to-be friend?!

If you’re local you can book with Relax Bristol here: www.relaxbristol.co.uk and readers of my blog can receive 10% off any treatment over 60 minutes throughout December using the code SNOWFLAKE.

Relax Bristol kindly offered me this complimentary pregnancy massage, but all opinions are my own. 

Blogmas… am I mad?

December 1, 2017

INSPIRE

Well probably, I appreciate that attempting to make any sort of commitment is a bit mental when I have a baby due on the 12th of the month. However, hear me out…

Now I’m all done with client work and on maternity leave, I actually have quite a lot of free time while I’m playing the waiting game. The urge to nest has got me hell bent on tiding the house from top to toe, which is great but a little tiring so it’s actually a good idea to have something to focus on aside from cleaning out cupboards.

I also have a fair few blog posts that, aside from a few tweaks, are pretty much ready to go. So I’m hoping that an attempt at Blogmas will mean I hit publish on those posts that have been languishing in my drafts folder for far too long. Plus, as I’m such a sporadic blogger I have so much that I’ve been meaning to share that I’m definitely not going to run dry on content ideas.

That said, I’m aware it’s highly unlikely that I’ll manage to get *so* ahead with scheduled posts that I’ll post every day up until Christmas so I’m gonna go for something more manageable… twelve days of Blogmas here we go!

Are any of you doing Blogmas or Vlogmas? Do let me know and I’ll be sure to follow along. Also, I’d love to know if there’s anything you’d like me to blog about.

Me & My Bump: Body Confidence in Pregnancy

November 15, 2017

NURTURE

Pregnancy bump in bath

Oh my how time ticks on! This week marks one month until our due date and I am working on processing the fact that – assuming that the little Gelfling doesn’t see fit to make an early appearance – we’re having a baby next month!

I do so admire those “proper” bloggers with weekly pregnancy diary entries. As-per-usual although I’ve got journal pages filled with scribbled, insomnia-fuelled musings on pregnancy and impending motherhood, I’ve really not done a great job at documenting my pregnancy here in blog form at all. That said, as I wind down things with work I’m hoping that I’ll find time for a little more blogging. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to do my best to get some of these posts that have been floating around in my head down and indulge in squeezing in a whole bunch of bump pics!

Nine months is of course not such a long time in the grand scheme of things, but looking back on the year it definitely feels like I’ve been pregnant for a long time. Although it’s a constant marvel I’ve also got very used to my new shape and as we head towards the finish line, I can’t help but wonder about how much I’ll miss this bump of mine.  I know my arms will be full of a wriggling baby instead of my tummy, but I feel like I’m bound to miss these kicks, rolls, and hiccups that have become such a familiar and comforting part of me.

4 months pregnant 4 month pregnant4 months to go – August afternoon on Troopers Hill.

I’ve found that pregnancy has brought a sort of body confidence that I’ve never really experienced before. There’s been a shift in the way I feel about my appearance, a pride in my changing shape and swelling belly. I suppose it’s not particularly odd to feel more positive about your body during pregnancy after all a bump gets larger and rounder as a direct result of a healthy babe growing inside and of course that’s something to be celebrated.  But it’s really made me realise how much of a difference there’s been to my mindset since becoming pregnant.

I wouldn’t have said that I had particularly low body confidence but I didn’t realise how often I would judge and berate myself until that nasty internal voice had been replaced with an altogether gentler supportive one. I would also have claimed to have had a pretty healthy relationship with food but with hindsight, I realise how much I would restrict certain food groups or beat myself up for having ‘treats’.

5 months pregnant Widbrook Grange 5 months pregnant zara dressThree months to go – Celebrating our second wedding anniversary at Widbrook Grange

It was a change that came quickly too. When my weeks young fetus was barely strawberry sized I was quite happy to see my tiny bump start to show under my clothes even though it was basically all bloating and gas. I guess I was just excited to see that something was happening but still, as someone who’s spent a large part of my life sucking my belly in it felt like quite a big attitude shift.

Don’t get me wrong living in my pregnant body hasn’t been all rainbows and light by any means. There have been aches that have lasted for days and carpal tunnel syndrome that shoots pains through the joints in my hands and feet. I now understand the true meaning of the phrase bone-tired and I have literally cried about how big the bags under my eyes have been…needless to say, that didn’t really help the situation. But despite those grumbles it’s hard for me not to feel anything but immense gratitude and kindness towards my tired aching body.

cup of tea on 7 months pregnant bumpTwo months to go – “look Ma no hands!”

How this will leave me feeling about my postpartum body is a mystery. Will this newly found self-love continue when it’s just me in here? When it’s not deemed a beautiful by society’s standards to walk around proudly rubbing a pot belly, will I still approach my appearance with kindness and gratitude?

I hope so – I hope I can still marvel and celebrate a body that is able to sustain another human. To nourish myself with food and exercise but not to beat myself up if I don’t. To greet my reflection with a kind and gentle internal voice. At the very least, I would like to think that regardless of having a son or a daughter, I can avoid teaching them that it’s normal to look in the mirror and criticise what you see or that some foods are good and others evil.

Because really; pregnant, postpartum or not – wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little kinder to ourselves and feel good in our own skin all the time?

I’d love to know how you’ve felt about your pregnancy or postpartum bodies. Any advise for keeping the good vibes going?

Autumn: A Playlist

October 10, 2017

LISTEN

Holding red autumn leaf in the woods

I began creating a new autumnal playlist with a bit of a different vibe to all the others out there, but then I though… if Fleet Foxes aren’t included on your track list have you even made an autumn playlist though?

So, although I’ve popped in a couple of random songs I’m loving into the mix too, here’s a good old folk-tastic, seasonally inspired playlist. Perfect for soundtracking car trips through beautiful golden countryside, cosy afternoons spent at home or solo walks through the park with scrunching leaves underfoot.

Track Listing

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold (Spotify Session)
Fleet Foxes – If you Need To, Keep Time On Me
Matthew and the Atlas – Temple (acoustic version)
Kimya Dawson – Solid and Strong
Jens Lekman – A Postcard to Nina
Bombay Bicycle Club – Autumn
Nat King Cole – Autumn Leaves
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong – Autumn in New York
The White Stripes – We’re Going To Be Friends
Emmy The Great – Paper Forest (In The Afterglow of Rapture)
Emiliana Torrini – Autumn Sun
Amanda Palmer – Bed Song

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The Ethicurean… Summer ’17

September 5, 2017

WANDER

Beautiful orange flowers in a rustic sink at The Ethicurean near BristolBlue sky above the walled garden at The Ethicurean, BristolBlue sky and sunflowers at The Ethicurean, Bristol

I always say one of my favourite things about Bristol is its proximity to a wealth of gorgeous countryside. We haven’t had a car for the last few years however (and I don’t cycle), and although there’s plenty of green spaces and walks reachable on foot it’s not the same at jumping in the car and escaping the city. With a little one on the way, we decided it was time to get a new motor and, aside from all the practical benefits, I’m beyond delighted that we can go on mini weekend adventures.

Instead of discovering somewhere new, for our first exertion we headed to one of our favourite places on the outskirts of Bristol, The Ethicurean. I sing the praises of this place to anyone who will listen and it is quite a regular feature on my Instagram feed. But for those who don’t know The Ethicurean is restaurant set within a beautiful victorian walled garden. The views are stunning, the seasonal dishes they serve taste and look incredible and there’s a signature toffee apple cake that’s nothing short of magical!

Tea and toffee apple cake at The Ethicurean, BristolRestaurant at The Ethicurean, BristolVeg for sale at The Ethicurean, Bristol

We left it a bit late to book a table for lunch but that didn’t stop us turning up for a wander around the lovely kitchen gardens and enjoying a slow afternoon in the sun with a pot of tea and a slice of the aforementioned amazing-toffee-apple-dream-cake! I’d recommend a trip at any time but this end of summer season seemed like a particularly beautiful time of year to visit, the gardens were luscious with gorgeous flowers in bloom and the trees abundant with fruit.

It’s sort of amazing to me that barely a 30 minutes drive away from the city centre we can find such a perfect slice of countryside paradise. That said, every visit at some point includes the inevitable musings on local property prices. But for now we’re content to head back to our town house with a full bellies, full camera rolls and a full veg box to boot!

Looking out at Mendips view at The Ethicurean, BristolVeg for sale at at The Ethicurean, Bristol Veg for sale at at The Ethicurean, BristolBright orange flowers in a rustic sink The Ethicurean, Bristol

More ‘adventures outside the city’ to follow! Where would you recommend for a day-trip jaunt?

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