Local businesses I’ve been supporting throughout lockdown

I hold my hand up high and admit I was one of the very many who panic bought at the beginning of lockdown. Now I think back, all but a few of my Waitrose purchases were quite mindless and random – I’d definitely got caught in the panic buy circle!

What I then found quite hard to see, were the local businesses/cafes/restaurants that I love, support and spend my time at, start closing their doors. I was worried for them and upset. What the next few weeks and months held for them, for everyone, was completely unknown. So that’s when I turned my focus to supporting and doing what I could to help them. I started purchasing from them, sharing on social media and by word of mouth. We were still lucky enough to be getting a weekly delivery from Ocado, which we had signed up to and been using for years. We were very mindful with what we purchased and got what we couldn’t get locally.

Here are a few of my favourite local cafes and businesses I’ve been supporting though these hard times.

Geo Cafe

A cafe I’d been visiting for years, which had changed owners not long ago, bringing a Georgian theme to the cafe and centre of Caversham. Continuing to sell freshly baked homemade sourdough bread, delicious breakfast and lunch dishes and a range of yummy cakes both vegan and not. Before and then when lockdown hit, they were offering takeaway coffee, baked goods and bread, alongside eggs and fruit and vegetable boxes. The vegetable boxes have been a wonderful hit in our house and we have bought many, using them to base our weekly meals around. Full of variety every week and so fresh and delicious. They’ve really grown as a cafe over the past few months, you can now order online, add eggs and bread to your order and also pop by and pick up a range of fresh produce from the stall outside! Check them out here!

Dudmans Of Berkshire

Now I had not come across this independent wholesale grocer until I was browsing the local community Facebook page. Strange as they are literally a 10 minute drive from me. Someone had posted about their fresh fruit and I decided to look at their website and what they offered. Vegetable and fruit boxes available for delivery or you could pop down and pick what you wanted. The set up was so colourful and my eyes were in heaven! The colour and freshness of the produce shined, the staff were extremely welcoming and helpful, adhering to the 2 metre distancing rules, using gloves and enabling a safe and easy shopping experience. And at a great price! I’ve mostly bought fruit, especially strawberries, from them, but it all tastes so fresh and delicious. If you are close, I definitely recommend you get there early in the morning, around 9am, to beat the rush! You can find more information by visiting their website here.

Berries Coffee Shop

Now to the important stuff – coffee! Never have I been so thankful, or used our bean to cup coffee machine, as much as I have since lockdown!! Berries, located in Henley, is a relatively new and special coffee shop, mainly because they roast their own beans! When lockdown hit, they quickly closed their doors and offered a delivery service. By buying their beans, we were able to support them and continue to enjoy the essential cup, or two, of coffee at home! Since lockdown has been eased, they’ve opened up again, serving baked goods, wraps, sandwiches etc. There is ALWAYS a queue outside and one I am prepared to wait in!

Pierreponts Cafe

A family run cafe, in a village I adore, which I’ve been visiting for years. So popular that you have to book at the weekend if you want to eat in, or be prepared to sit outside and brave whatever the British weather brings on the day! Initially closing their doors and kitchen, they bounced back after a few weeks, offering “fill your freezer” meals and baked goods for collection – changing weekly, all can be ordered from their social media pages or website. We purchased a few and boy were they delicious – I had a Thai chicken curry and my parents had a beef dish and a vegetable lasagna – perfect for an evening when we didn’t fancy cooking. Since a few weeks ago, they’ve opened up their hatch again to serve coffee, their popular jam doughnuts, my favourite, their vegan granola bar! Plus much more! I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked if it’s on their counter or begged for it to be made…! Steph and Phil are probably sick of me asking for it! It’s been lovely to see them open again and a real treat after a long walk by the river, which has become a regular occurrence on a Friday. Thank you guys for reopening and bring your smiles and positivity!

The Collective

A new cafe to Caversham and I have to take my hat off to them for opening during this weird time. However, from the looks and visiting myself, they’ve been doing amazing and the support from the local community has been incredible. Nestled just out of the centre of the town, this cafe is beautiful. Light, airy, clean and welcoming, they offer a range of sweet and savoury baked goods, coffee, local eggs, fresh bread and a selection of gifts and cards. I’ve visited twice, once on their first weekend and more recently, taking Charlie with me after our run. I look forward to visiting more and being able to sit in and enjoy brunch when we are allowed to do so. Check out their website and find out more about them, here!

Lastly, if you are in the Henley area, check out The Henley Basket. An online support website where you can order takeaway, food and much more from local businesses, cafes and restaurants in Henley. With safe collection, I think it’s a great idea to keep the small independent businesses open! You can find out more about it by going to the website!

I want to thank all of these local businesses and cafes for opening back up, safely, to the community. It’s been so lovely to see you all so positive, smiley and keeping spirits high during these uncertain times.

I hope you’ve all had a good week and weekend, hopefully we are one step closer to being out of this. For now, take care and sending much love to you all!

Emma xx

My Lockdown Bakes

I’ve always loved baking. I absolutely love it, I find it really therapeutic and enjoy loosing myself in a recipe. Before lockdown, my baking was pretty basic and consisted of cakes, cupcakes (mostly with the girls I looked after) and brownies. Since lockdown, oh how things have changed!

For my birthday, I was given the most beautiful cookbook from a friend, called ‘Aran‘. A bakery in Highland Perthshire, Scotland, where they bake an assortment of breads, cakes, pastries, delicious tarts alongside salads, and all these recipes can be found in the book.

Having been kindly gifted some sourdough starter from another friend and with my new cookbook to guide me, my bread baking especially, really took off. I never thought I could bake bread, let alone sourdough. It seemed “too hard”, too many steps and after a failed attempt a year ago, I decided it wasn’t for me. However, I’m so glad that I have persevered with this starter because I have really found something I love doing and genuinely have a passion for. It hasn’t been easy and it has taken many, many failed attempts but I feel like I have finally mastered it.

Now with bread and other types of flour being quite hard to source, I’ve only made the Classic Sourdough (definitely the most used recipe/page in the book) and a ‘porridge loaf’, but my next challenge is to find some rye and spelt flour so I can start making some mixed loaves and really experiment with flavours and texture.

Alongside bread, I’ve also found other ways of using my starter. I recently stumbled across Izy Hossack, and her blog ‘Top with Cinnamon’, through Charl, who I follow on Instagram. Izy opened a whole new chapter of sourdough baking for me with her recipes ranging from brownies to focaccia, I was excited to be able to make more yummy goodies using my starter. My current and favourite recipe from Izy, is her sourdough brownies – which I’ve linked here. I actually can’t count the number of times I’ve made them, for both my parents and friends, because they are so easy and taste incredible! She also has a vegan sourdough brownie recipe, which is on top of my list to bake next, along with sourdough banana bread!

With my sweet tooth satisfied, I really wanted to try something I love – sourdough pizza! When we were put into lockdown, and restaurants had closed their doors and stopped takeaways, I instantly saved the Franco Manca’s sourdough pizza recipe, that they shared on their blog. Again, I remember reading it and thinking how much time it required, time I had, but didn’t think I could pull off. I must have read it a number of times before finally biting the bullet and deciding to give it a go. After working out timings, it required me to start it at 3am to eat the following evening, something I wasn’t quite prepared to do. So, I asked my friend Anders, who’s a a baker, and he said it would definitely be doable in one day.

So, that Saturday morning at 6am, I got up and started making the dough. I made a coffee, prepared everything and once I’d given it a mix, let it sit for an hour and turned it once, it was time to leave it until late afternoon to start cooking. Actually easier than I thought! In the cooking instructions, they suggested a few ways of cooking the dough, and we found baking it on the a stone at the same temperature I bake the bread, worked the best. We did try frying one of the bases but it didn’t cook as well, it came out quite thick and too doughy, but my dad happily munched it away!!

I won’t lie, once they came out of the oven, I squealed in excitement and couldn’t wait to tuck in! I even had leftovers, so dropped some at Charlie’s doorstep for her and Tom to enjoy!

Along with lots of sourdough themed bakes, I’ve also enjoyed cooking a huge selection of dishes for suppers. Again, a time for me to switch off for a bit and enjoy a new recipe, using new flavours and ingredients we wouldn’t normally choose.

I dream of working in a bakery and putting my skills to use and bake for others. I’ve been inspired by Kitty and her dad, who own a local bakery called The Orange Bakery. Selling sourdough loaves, cakes, pastries and so much more, all made in a bake house in their back garden! She’s such a sweet young lady, her dad is incredibly kind, and they both inspire me daily to keep going with my baking.

Lastly, I recently found and have fallen in love with Bryan Ford. His Instagram, which makes my eyes light up, along with his blog full of sourdough bread recipes, inspires me to want to try pastries – croissants especially! He’s also got a book out in a couple of weeks, which I’m excited about!

Once I’m back at work, I definitely won’t stop my baking and cooking. I enjoy it too much to stop and I’m too stubborn to let a recipe get the better of me!!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a slightly different post and that it inspires you to pick up a wooden spoon this weekend!

Much love and thank you for reading,

Emma xx

Happenings 28.5.20

How is it nearly June?! This year, in a very good way, is flying by and although its not been the year we had all planned, I’m sure its one most of us will be glad to see the back of!
In terms of my blog posts, I’ve found I’ve wanted to blog/post a lot more, now I have the time, but end up staring at a blank page for a long time and unsure
of what to write.

So, I’ve decided to do one of my favourite posts, summing up the past month and, as always, inspired by my friend Heidi.

DOING: Sitting in the garden. A place I’ve spent the majority of this lockdown, enjoying the beautiful sunny and warm weather we have been having. 

HEARING: The odd bird singing away and a neigh or two from the horses in the field behind our house. 

EATING AND COOKING: Wow, where do I begin?! Thanks to a friend, who kindly gifted me some of his sourdough starter when mine died, I’ve pretty much mastered the sourdough baking. I currently have loaves coming out of my ears, thanks to another friend, who gave me a gorgeous cookbook called Aran for my birthday and has, in my opinion, the best sourdough loaf recipe I’ve found! The book has some other gorgeous recipes from croissants to cakes and even salads – perfect for these hot days we’ve been having. 

There will be a separate post about all the baking I’ve done, so sit tight for that one! 

Being home, I’ve also had the chance to do more cooking for myself and my parents, which I have really enjoyed. I love nothing more than to get lost in a recipe, explore new flavours and ingredients but mostly use it to switch off from everything going on around me. We have also been having local fruit and vegetable boxes from local cafes and businesses delivered, and for the past couple of weeks, have based our week night meals on the contents of the box. Again, it gives us less choice and allows us to be more creative and try recipes we wouldn’t normally choose. 

WANTING: Life to go back to normal, although I know it never fully will. I want to be able to hug my goddaughter and friends, family, race again and enjoy going out to eat, the cinema and sit in coffee shops. Little things I guess I took for granted, but will cherish even more now. 

ENJOYING: Online Zoom classes. Be it PT, Pilates, foam rolling and many of Laura’s classes. I’ve enjoyed still being able to see friends and workout “together”, have a chat and laugh. And FaceTimes and calls with friends and family!

Our lockdown rules were also lifted recently, and we can now meet one other person outside, 2 metres apart. Charlie and I jumped at this opportunity to get a run in together and it was wonderful!!!

LOOKING: Forward to a new start. Goodbye’s are so hard and I have really struggled digesting being made redundant. Being a nanny is an extremely intimate job and caring for little ones, it’s hard not to become attached. However, I know it will get easier as time goes by and I have many wonderful memories with that family.

DECIDING: On a change of career, although it’s been a little trickier than I originally thought. I have always wanted to be a midwife and I feel like now is the right time to go for it. I’m SO thankful and lucky to still be living at home, and after a big discussion with my parents who instantly said they’d support me whatever, I applied to some universities. Sadly, I didn’t get accepted, a kick in the gut, but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing my dream.

WATCHING: Not a great deal, however, I recently finished a Netflix series called Sweet Magnolia. I suggest you all run, don’t walk to your tv’s, because I highly recommend it! Admittedly it does take a few episodes to get into BUT then it suddenly takes off and let me tell you now, you’ll be wanting series 2 to arrive ASAP!

I’ve also been working may way through Gilmore Girls, and I’m absolutely loving it – why did it take lockdown to get me to watch it, I don’t know! Big thanks to Sophie for getting me hooked!

Other Netflix series I can really recommend are – Outer Banks, Unforgotten and my favourite, Cheer.

READING: I had started ‘The Giver of Stars’ by JoJo Moyes a few weeks ago, however, I haven’t picked it up since. To be honest, I’m finding settling down with a book quite hard at the moment, maybe my head just isn’t in the right place for a book but I’m sure I’ll pick it up again soon. Or in fact, make myself pick it up!

PLANNING: How to get some healthcare experience, which is obviously not the best time to be doing so, as all mother and baby groups and breastfeeding clinics aren’t running and I’m not sure how open armed hospitals are at the moment. However, I shall continue to reach out.

BUYING: Nothing other than fresh fruit and vegetables from local markets/small businesses and the essentials – coffee being top of the list here! There is nothing I need, nowhere to go and spend money, so for now I’m saving it. 

CRAVING: Cold fresh fruit, salads and light meals. Standard summer cravings! Also Kombucha. My favourites are Equinox – Ginger – and L.A Brewery, however I find this one really hard to find! I managed to come across two bottles at a local cafe I popped into the other day and treated myself.

WEARING: Basically Sweaty Betty or Lululemon….both brands are just so comfy and I spend a lot of my weeks doing at least a class a day! I can’t remember the last time I wore “real” clothes! Haha!

I love this Sweaty Betty running T-shirt! Great for cooler mornings/days. I got it in the sale last year so not sure if it’s still around!

LOVING: This amazing weather we’ve been having. It’s made getting out for a run so much more enjoyable! I also highly doubt I/any of us will get to travel abroad this year, so having this hot, sunny spell has slightly made up for it. Travelling and exploring new countries is definitely one thing I’m going to do more of when this is all lifted.

PLAYING: Scrabble! My mum and I really enjoy a game in the afternoon or evening, making the most of being outside in the warm summer heat.

I’ve also taken part in a few virtual races put together by Brooks and a friend!

SAVOURING: This time off, at home. I still do feel very guilty that I am not working but with a career change hopefully on the horizon, I don’t know if I’ll ever get this time again. So I’m soaking up the slow mornings, lazy afternoons, for now, and trying to let the guilt go…

FEELING: A real mix of emotions. My mood definitely differs from day to day but I’m learning to just take it as it comes and ride it. It’s definitely been a tough few weeks, and I know I’m not the only one who has experienced job loss alongside other troubling moments.

Sending much love to you all and leaving you with this quote that my aunt posted recently.


Much love, stay strong,

Emma xx

How I started running

Back in my primary and secondary school days, I wasn’t interested in sports. I took part in P.E. lessons and sports day, but outside of school, swimming lessons were the only activity I semi enjoyed.

I remember it all began after talking to a friend about the marathon she had just completed. Feeling so inspired and motivated by her, I decided I wanted to give running a go! I looked into how to get started and found the Change for Life Couch to 5k App.

One afternoon I downloaded it, plugged my headphones in and off out I went that evening after work. I felt really self conscious of myself and running in public, so I kept to the quieter streets and woods, so no one could see me. As the days turned into weeks and my running grew, so did my confidence.

If you are unfamiliar with the Couch to 5k app, it is a programme set up to get people running. First developed by a guy named Josh Clark, the programme consists of three runs a week, with a rest day in between. Every week is different and aims to increase the amount of time you are running by using a run/walk routine (one I still use, and love, to this day!). The end goal, being able to run for 30 minutes or 5k without stopping.

After completing the 9 weeks, I felt extremely proud of myself and happy! Starting on week 1, running for 1 minute sounded easy but I remember it being quite difficult. Some weeks I remember being quite challenging and sometimes didn’t think I could keep going. It tested my physical and mental health but I learnt so much from it. To build up to running for 30 whole minutes without stopping, seemed impossible when I started, but amazing once I’d finished!

Since then, my running has continued and grown more than I ever expected it to. From 5k, I climbed to 10k and then all the way up to an Ultra. Unexpectedly I had found a sport I enjoyed, got excited about, helped me mentally and physically, gave me experiences and chances I thought I’d have and a whole bunch of new and lifelong friends.

I have a lot to owe the Couch to 5k app, and highly recommend it if you are wanting to get into running! Unfortunately the Change for Life Couch to 5k app isn’t around anymore, but there are plenty of others on the app store. I believe you even get to choose from a range of celebrities to ‘coach’ and motivate you along the way!

If your not sure where to start looking, my friend Charlie, also known as TheRunnerBeans, recently recorded a podcast about the Couch to 5k app. It includes some inspiring stories/experiences from runners who have used it and you can find it here. I highly recommend her podcast if you are unsure of getting started and need some questions answered! All her podcasts are great, they are informative and so easy to listen to!

If are thinking you want to give running or any sport/activity a go, do it! I’ve realised life is too short to “wait another day”. This app really changed me and I can’t recommend it enough!

Stay safe and well and have a lovely weekend!
Emma xx

My 30th birthday and one to remember!

Rewind four months ago, to early January. I was sending save the dates to friends and family because this year, my birthday fell on Easter Sunday and I was turning 30. At first I’d planned not to have a party, but instead a few close friends and family over for tea and cake, but the more I thought about it, the more ideas filtered into my head and I started to get excited.

I’d booked a hotel room, secured a band, found a baker to make my cake and ordered invitations to send out. Then within weeks a pandemic had hit the world and events were being cancelled left, right and centre. I held on, very tightly, to the fact I could still hold my party but within a few days, things had escalated and it was when my friend Cortney told me she was cancelling her flights to the U.K., that it really hit hard. Gutted, to say the least, I had a strop, cried hard and shouted. This virus was ruining events for everyone but that aside, it was also killing people in its path and was not a force to be reckoned with.

As weeks turned into months, we all came accustomed to our new way of life. Everyday felt like the movie Groundhog Day, and no, I don’t suggest you watch it! And, with the Easter weekend fast approaching, I was going to make it my mission to not let it be like any other weekend. Running up to my birthday, flowers, gifts and lots of post started arriving and I was actually feeling quite excited about celebrating.

On Sunday morning I woke up and the sun was shining. With the rest of the household, including the dog, still fast asleep, I snuck out for a short run. It was so beautiful and warm out, wearing shorts (finally) and feeling the sun on my skin was so lovely. I returned home, showered and put on my favourite dress. I was determined to make this day different to any other day, and just wearing a dress made me feel so much better. I came down to find the kitchen table decorated with balloons, presents, cards, coffee and breakfast cooking. We took it slow, I opened my cards and the presents followed.

Throughout the day, the love I received was overwhelming. Alongside the cards, flowers (SO many flowers!!) and presents family and friends had sent, the messages, comments on my social media, texts and Facetime made it so special. So thank you so much to everyone for all your love!

The rest of the day was spent in the warm, sunny garden. We had tea and cake, that my friend had very kindly made me, and boy was it good! I have to admit it did NOT last more than a few days. We Facetimed my uncle, then my aunt before my dad and I took some cake to my Grandma’s house. She lives only a short 5 minute drive away, and she needed some other essential items, which we dropped off too. Don’t worry, we stood the 2 metres apart, after dropping everything on her doorstep, knocking on her door, and standing back. She lives alone and I think is starting to find everything really quite hard. Seeing others in person is a lot different to seeing them on the screen or hearing them on the phone, and I think she really enjoyed a chat and seeing us on our short visit.

Home and sat with a gin and tonic, I took this moment to think and reflect on my day. No it was no where close to what I had planned it to be, but it was wonderful. I was with two of my very favourite people, I had cake, Mungo, and was showered with love. I felt special and if you ask me, that’s exactly what you should feel on your birthday!

A massive thank you to everyone, again, for all the presents, love, messages and birthday wishes. I am truly lucky to have every single one of you in my life. I can’t wait for this lockdown to end, so I can see friends and celebrate through plans that have been made, and for next April to come, when I will be celebrating my 30+1 birthday with a bang!

Much love to you all!

Emma xx

Brilliant video made by my cousin and aunt!