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Crack open the champagne – Muddy Stilettos is about to launch!

16 Oct

OMG! This is the last post you’ll receive before my lovely relaunch today. Hurray!!

Just for today, you’ll have to physically log on to http://www.muddystilettos.co.uk initially to see the new blogazine- there are loads of new stories on there and new features too. When I next post something new, the posts will arrive as usual into your in-box and normal service will resume.

Have a look at www.muddystilettos.co.uk towards the end of the day when all the technical stuff  will have been completed.

And please, if you love Muddy Stilettos and want to support my little business, can I ask you to send this link to one friend who isn’t already registered to Muddy Stilettos and suggest they sign up? It will take you about 10 seconds but will make a massive difference to Muddy Stilettos, my labour of love!

Thank you. I hope you enjoy the new blogazine.

Hero x

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WHAT’S ON: The Muddy Guide 12 – 18 October

12 Oct
‘On the Road’, general release from Friday 12 Oct

It’s taken half a century to get this film from the pages of the Jack Kerouac original onto celluloid. Directed by Walter Salles, it stars Brit coolcat Sam Riley, American newcomer Garrett Hedlund and Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as the restless trio.  My local cinema Odeon Aylesbury is predictably not showing it as it’s not an American cartoon, but the local  art-house cinemas have better taste! Here’s the trailer.

Love Art Fair (Milton Keynes); London Frieze Fair – both Thurs 11 – Sun 14 Oct

London’s Frieze Fair

Two sides of the coin here, with the zero snoot-factor Love Art Fair launching in MK:Centre. Free entry to see scores of artists selling their works from £100 into the thousands. Alternatively, head to London’s Frieze Fair, billed as the contemporary art event of the year, to see international galleries from Berlin to Tokyo exhibiting their clients, and battling it out for the most innovative stand – the winner gets £10,000 so I imagine they’ll all be putting in considerable effort. The Frieze is held at Regent’s Park and tickets cost £27 (concessions available). www.theloveartfair.com; www.friezelondon.com

Pegasus Theatre celebrity playathon, Oxford, Saturday 14 Oct

Radiohead’s Phil Selway. No drum kit to hide behind this time Phil.

Sleeping Beauty, English National Ballet, Milton Keynes, Weds 17 – Sat 20 October

A second shout out for Milton Keynes this week, with this touring production of ENB’s Sleeping Beauty. It really looks fantastic – just loving the costumes – and there are two matinee performances, one on Thursday and the other on Saturday, if you want to take younger children. £10-45. Book tickets here.

As part of its 50th year celebrations, this fundraiser for the creative powerhouse Pegagus Theatre sees the likes of Radiohead’s Philip Selway, plus Scott Maslen (Eastenders) and actress Rachel Bavidge (see her here in My Favourite Places) and others with a Pegasus or Oxford connection taking to the stage for play-readings on Saturday. The playathon goes on all weekend so if you want to get up there and have a go at ‘Out damn spot!’ or similar, I’m sure they’ll be, er, delighted!
www.pegasustheatre.org.uk

Apple Days, National Trust, ongoing


I mentioned this last week but for those of you who missed it, there are many more NT estates running apple pressing/tasting/picking days in the next week or two. Stowe (13 Oct), the lovely Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds (Sat 13-14 Oct)  Cliveden (20-21 Oct), Waddesdon (21 Oct – as part of its Autumn Fruits Fair), Bradenham (21 Oct) and others. A great incentive to gets your kids out and about. Go to the National Trust website for more details.

Homemade in Haddenham, Haddenham Village Hall, Saturday 13 Oct

Cranberry and white chocolate blondie, from Haddenham company Made By Mums

How could I not mention my lovely local food event? Haddenham is the biggest village in England fact fans, and there’s plenty of farmland around us, so this village food fair packs a punch bigger than you’d first think. You’ll see me there too, as I’ll be propped up for a few hours in the hall meeting the producers and you lot hopefully!
10-3pm.

KIDS RECIPE: Plum & apple cobbler by Beverley Glock

9 Oct

Plum and apple cobbler. Oh God yes!

Princes Risborough-based celeb chef and Splat cooking supremo Beverley Glock kindly gave Muddy Stilettos this autumnal recipe for kids.

What I like about it is that it’s written specifically for children rather than their parents, so print it out, hand it to your mini-masterchefs and let them raid your kitchen cupboards!

What’s the worst that can happen? Oh no, you’re right, let’s not go there.

Plum and apple cobbler

Serves 4

 Ingredients:

500g plums or plums and damsons

500g Bramley cooking apples

Juice of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

100g caster sugar

For the cobbler

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

75g butter

50g caster sugar

1 egg

4 tablespoons milk or buttermilk

You will need:

Weighing scales
2 Large mixing bowls
Round bladed knife
Chopping board
Sharp knife
Teaspoon
Tablespoon
Deep pie dish
An adult!

How to make plum and apple cobbler:

FIRST, WASH YOUR HANDS

1.      Ask an adult to preheat the oven to 20oc/gas 6.

2.      Use a round bladed knife to carefully cut the plums in half and remove the stone, then quarter them.  Peel the apples and ask an adult to core and slice them.  Mix the fruit with the lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar and place into the deep pie dish, then add 3 tablespoons of water.  Ask an adult to put the fruit into the oven to being to cook, for a maximum of 15 minutes.

3.      Prepare the cobbler – place the flour and cinnamon into a bowl, use a round bladed knife to chop the butter into small pieces then rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.  Stir in the sugar then add the egg and milk or buttermilk and lightly mix to a soft dough.

4.      Ask an adult to remove the fruit from the oven – be careful as the disk will be hot.  Spoon or break off and place pieces of the dough on top of the fruit. Don’t worry if there are gaps as this will allow the lovely red juices to break through the surface and give you the ‘cobbled’ effect of the cobbler.  Serve warm with custard, cream or ice cream.

You can use lots of different fruit in a cobbler, if plums are in season these are lovely with the apple in this recipe or you could use just plums or a mixture of greengages, damsons and plums that are all part of the same family. Try this with pears and blackberries, or peaches and raspberries, and experiment with different combinations of fruit in season.

MY FAVOURITE PLACES: Steve Colgan, author and ‘QI’ writer

7 Oct

Stevyn Colgan is a writer and artist who lives in Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire. He’s written two books, ‘Joined-Up Thinking’ and ‘Henhwedhlow’, and is a regular contributor to the QI Annuals. He works as a research ‘elf’ for the BBC show and is one of the writers of its sister show on Radio 4, ‘The Museum of Curiosity’. His new book, ‘Constable Colgan’s Connectoscope’ is being crowd-funded through www.unbound.co.uk

Coombe Hill near Dunsmore and Wendover

The view from the top of Coombe Hill

Coombe Hill is a favourite dog walking spot of mine. I’ve been going there for years. The view from the top by the Boer War monument is spectacular; it’s 852ft/260m above sea level and you get to see the whole of the Aylesbury Vale laid out in front of you like a patchwork quilt.

On a clear day you can see as far as the power towers at Didcot and other distant objects such as Brill Hill, Aylesbury Church, Waddesdon Manor and even the Cotswolds, which are some 50 miles away. Helpfully there’s a trig point by the monument to show you where to look.

You also get a nice view down into the grounds of nearby Chequers – the Prime Minister’s country residence. However, distance and tree cover means that you’ll never get a clear shot.

Black Park near Iver

Black Park has been one of my kids’ favourite walk destinations since they were toddlers with a lovely stroll around the lake and the adjacent 530 acres of pine forest and woodland. There’s also an activity centre, an adventure playground and a nice little café. It’s a great picnic spot too. Plus, because it sits right next to Pinewood Film Studios it’s been used as a shooting location for decades.

As a film nerd I love spotting areas of the park that I know and, every so often, I catch filming while it’s happening. Which is how, on one memorable walk, my kids were able to walk around and pop inside Hagrid’s house during filming of the first Harry Potter film.

You’ll also see the park in virtually every Hammer Horror movie ever made, episodes of Monty Python and Doctor Who. The park also turns up in Goldfinger, Casino Royale (2006), Batman (1989), Sleepy Hollow, Kate Bush’s video for Breathing and several Carry Ons. Oo-er.

Bourne End to Marlow, along the River Thames

Marlow, the perfect end to a riverside walk

I have to include some part of the River Thames because it’s so beautiful. I live in the southern tip of Bucks, so I’m very close to the borders with Oxfordshire, Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Berkshire and many of my favourite walks are around places like Henley-on-Thames, Maidenhead or by the canals in Tring and Rickmansworth.

I particularly love the stretch of the Thames from Bourne End to Marlow. There’s nothing nicer on a warm Summer evening or a crisp Autumn Sunday afternoon than dawdling along by the river, envying all of the gorgeous millionaire’s waterside homes, waving to passing cabin cruisers and scullers and, having worked up an appetite, popping into Marlow afterwards for a meal and a pint of good beer.

Hellfire Caves, near High Wycombe.

The caves themselves are actually a little dull and disappointing. They’re dark, damp and claustrophobic and there’s little to see other than some seriously awful waxworks-type dummies. But it’s still worth a visit just to get a sense of the naughty delights that went on there during the mid-18th century. Saucy Sir Francis Dashwood had the caves dug into a chalky hillside on his West Wycombe estate and invited the great and the good to come and debauch, drink and take part in mock religious ceremonies. Walking down into those caves, you’re walking in the footsteps of people like John Montagu, 4th earl of Sandwich (after whom your packed lunch was named), William Hogarth, John Wilkes and even, allegedly, Benjamin Franklin.

On top of the hill is the creepy looking Dashwood family mausoleum and the Church of St Lawrence, notable for the strange golden ball atop the tower. It looks like a diving bell with portholes in the side. Unsurprisingly, it is fitted out inside with luxurious padded seating; just the thing for a naughty romp with a prominent person. Inside the church, which is curiously Gothic, there’s a ceiling painting of the Last Supper from which Judas’s eyes follow you around the place.

Midsomer County

My final selection isn’t really a single place. It’s an amalgam of some of the prettiest and deadliest places I know. I’ll place it under the banner of Midsomer. A lot of the popular ITV cop drama Midsomer Murders, in which the good people of Midsomer county are slaughtered in their thousands despite the best attentions of several Chief Inspector Barnabys, is filmed in and around Bucks.

Curiously the show is both a wonderful showcase of some of the county’s most beautiful locations … and a warning not to go there as you’ll wind up clubbed to death by an African war hammer, stabbed with a Japanese katana, poisoned with hemlock or bludgeoned to death with a wine collection hurled by a trebuchet while you’re staked out on a croquet lawn (No, really. It happened in one episode). It shows off the beauty of places like Great Missenden, Little Kimble, West Wycombe, Beaconsfield, Old Amersham, Brill Hill, Turville (where The Vicar of Dibley was filmed), Long Crendon (above), Haddenham and many more.

Aha, Mr Egg Cosy! I’ve been expecting you…

6 Oct


Look what came through my door this morning!

Not the friendly little egg, that would be crazy.

No, my Little Blog Award Winner’s egg cosy and cup, along with a certificate (oooh, get me!). It’s like being awardedthe adult equivalent of a 10m swimming badge.

I won the award back in July so those grannies really need to speed up their knitting a bit, but it has arrived in perfect time for Autumn egg and soldiers.

A massive, sincere thank you all for voting for me in the awards and supporting Muddy Stilettos.

Right, time for a Full English! (Sorry friendly little egg, it had to end sometime).

x

WHAT’S ON: The Muddy Guide: 4 – 10 October

4 Oct

The Big Draw, nationwide, until 31 October

 

The world’s biggest celebration of drawing has grown into a month-long festival throughout October all over the UK. In Bucks/Oxon it hits its stride this week with Modern Art Oxford’s free drop-in session on 10 October (1-4pm) about the power of the line, allegedly suitable for children and families. If that sounds a bit esoteric for your little darlings, the York House Centre in Stony Stratford (Milton Keynes) lowers the tone delightfully with its Ginormous Battle of Dinosaurs v Aliens  in a free workshop on Saturday 6 October (10 am – 4pm).

Kids can also help create a massive BFG at The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden or try the new Drawing Packs at The Ashmolean on Saturday 13 October – with a little help from a certain Korky Paul, author and illustrator of Winnie The Witch. Check out the website here for a full list of events.

Waterperry Gardens, Apple Weekend, Friday 5 – Sunday 7 October

Had a rubbish harvest this year? Yeah, me too. Try to keep your apple envy in check as you head to Waterperry Gardens for its annual Apple Weekend.  Here’s your chance to enjoy free apple and juice tastings, tours of the orchards and fruit sheds and a test out of the different varieties of apple grown at Waterperry before buying a tree for your own garden.

www.waterperrygardens.co.uk.

Comma, online launch and 2nd birthday party, Saturday 6 October

I wrote about Comma last year, having stumbled across them whilst checking out Oxford’s Iffley Road. Lovely husband and wife team Sally and Dave produce a massive and brilliant range of witty/graphic tea towels (under the brand ToDryFor), notebooks, design nick-nacks and original cards, all of which you ‘ll be able to buy online from next week.  Combine a visit with a lunch at Michelin Bib-Gormanded The Magdalen Arms next door, or pop around the corner to check out the small-but-perfectly-formed Pegasus Theatre for a bijoux arty experience.

Comma, 247 Iffley Road, Oxford. OX4 1SJ Tel: 01865 202400

Little Missenden Festival, Little Missenden, Bucks, 5-14 October

Little Missenden Church. Check out those 12th century wall paintings.

This is a fab little festival is now in its 53rd year, with world-class classical music as its backbone but with jazz, art, folk and books thrown in for good measure. Folksinger Sam Lee, who opens the festival on Friday (5 Oct), has just been nominated for the Mercury prize for his debut album. Spanish guitarist  MILOŠ  has just received a four star Guardian review for his solo Albert Hall concert. Are you getting the picture?! Unless you’re local or a classical music nut you’re unlikely to make the evening events, but on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 there’s chamber music in the exquisite Saxon Little Missenden church at 2.45 and 3pm respectively if you want to go to your happy place for an hour or so.

www.little-missenden.org/

Artists & Makers Fair, Waddesdon Plant Centre, Saturday 6 – Sunday 7 October

If you can’t be arsed trawling the shopping centres or even faffing about online for your Christmas pressies, this is a sure-fire winner. Printmakers, ceramicists, painters, silversmiths and other clever arty types are on hand to demonstrate, make, and importantly sell their wares. Set yourself a spending limit, then do what any sensible woman does and completely ignore it.
£3 entry plus normal charges to Waddesdon Manor. www.sallyevansevents.co.uk.

Thame arts & Literature Festival, Thame, 12-14 October

Will Gompertz. Someone have a word with him.

An early heads up on this incredibly popular festival, now in its 3rd year. It lacks the heavyweight literary punch of its neighbours Henley and Woodstock but it’s a thoroughly accessible festival, with popular choices such as Pam Ayres, Mary Berry, Jonathan Dimbleby and weirdy-haired BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz (cut it man, cut it!). This year’s kids authors are Louise Yates, award winning writer/illustrator of Dog Loves Books and Penny Harper, the locally-based author of Lollipop and Grandpa. If last year’s kids events were anything to go by, these will be brilliant but over-subscribed so don’t wait too long to book.

www.talfestival.org

WIN! A gorgeous Illuminated Canvas for your wall

2 Oct

I absolutely love these sparkly LED-lit pictures from Oxfordshire-based company Illuminated Canvas. Brilliant for wedding presents, personalising bedrooms  or even – my favourite – displaying your kids favourite works of art.

There are loads of different canvases to choose from, including some gorgeous ones for Christmas that I have my beady eye on. Those lovely Illuminated Canvas people are so supernice, they’ll let you choose whichever style you like.

Just so you know what you’re getting: The images are hand stretched, over a hand assembled wooden frame, then 20 white fairy lights are popped through the canvas creating a magical 3D effect. A discreet switch hidden away in the back of the canvas means you can easily turn your canvas on and off without having to remove it from the wall. There is absolutely no fire risk.

WANT TO WIN? Alright then!

To Enter:

Do any or all of the below. Don’t forget, the more ways you enter, the more chances you have of winning.

1. Register to Muddy Stilettos by entering your email address into the ‘Register here’ tab (top right of the homepage). You’ll be entered into all Muddy Stilettos competitions, plus you will receive my electrifyingly useful posts straight to your in box. You can unsubscribe at any time.

2. Follow @muddystiletto and Retweet me please

3. ‘Like’ Muddy Stilettos on Facebook by following the link here AND ‘Like’ Illuminated Canvas by following the link here

The winner will be drawn on 14 October or thereabouts, depending on how many afternoons I lose on the G&T.

Good luck peeps!

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