thank pippin it’s friday!

P1250472At the girls’ primary school, SATS week is known as doughnut week because the children’s efforts are rewarded with a daily doughnut. Some might see that as a double-dose of ill health, but the doughnuts certainly take the edge off the exams and really, in the greater scheme of things, where’s the harm in a one-off week-long doughnut binge? Slightly more questionable is Doughnut Day, a ritual which our family has embraced with alarming ease, and celebrated with grave commitment, ever since Joe first came across the Pippin Doughnut stall on Wine Street.

P1250471I comfort myself with the fact that our Doughnut Day doughnuts are no ordinary doughnuts — and they really are, as you will see, extraordinary doughnuts — but there’s no way round the fact that what we are talking about here is a ball of dough which has been fried and then rolled in sugar. I’m not sure whether I’m trying to excuse our addiction or justify it, but the bottom line is Pippin doughnuts are delicious  I say that as someone who doesn’t even like doughnuts — and the reason we have just one doughnut day each week is entirely down to the fact that the Pippin Doughnuts only come to Bristol on Fridays*. They are also rather expensive at £1.30 each, £6.50 for six, or £10.95 for twelve.

P1250468But then again, the ingredients used to create the doughnuts are far from cheap and the dough, which is proved twice to improve texture and flavour, takes a long time to make. With homemade fillings as delicious and varied as gooseberry jam, lemon curd and rhubarb & custard, I think it’s fair to say that Pippin doughnuts are about as far removed from your usual supermarket doughnuts (Krispy Kreme included) as you can get. I think of them as being like Stella Artois: reassuringly expensive and much, much tastier.

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P1250480 P1250482The girls may forget their school books, PE kit, packed lunches, front door keys, shoes and socks even, but every Friday, whilst grumbling at each other over the breakfast table, they remember to place their doughnut order.

P1250486In the photographs above you can see last week’s box which contained three Bear Claws (this is what a Canadian friend says the oddly shaped cinnamon-coated doughnuts are called back home, but I think Pippin just list them as cinnamon and sugar), one chocolate ganache, one gooseberry and, just out of sight, a cappuccino doughnut with a coffee custard filling and topped with coffee icing and a dusting of cocoa powder.

P1250487Gourmet cup cakes your days are numbered, the designer doughnuts have arrived!

http://www.pippindoughnuts.co.uk, pippinbakery@aol.com, 01793 496210                            Pippin Doughnuts Wine Street, Bristol every Friday apart from the last Friday of the month. 

snow!

P1200003 Life has been very busy lately, which is why it’s been rather quiet here on the blog. But the thick blanket of snow which arrived on Friday morning has changed all that.

P1200018In a matter of hours our neighbourhood was transformed. Most of Bristol’s schools were closed and the atmosphere in our street, and in the park, was a bit like having a second run at Christmas but without any of the Bah! Humbug! and stress.

P1200021 P1200022 P1200092 P1200091 P1200093Life has slowed to an unsteady dawdle (though now that I’ve located my Yaktrax, I’ve been able to speed up a bit) and the last two days have been a lovely mixture of tobogganing in the park and walking the dog – usually the last thing the girls want to do is walk the dog, but it’s suddenly right up there at the top of the what-I-want-to-do-today list.

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The dog adores the snow, and races around the park and the garden in a state of demented joy and then passes out by the fire when we get home. The poor cat is in a deep sulk – she hates the snow and is wearing an expression of pained resignation.

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back on track, sort of…

P1190367A week has passed by in a blur of coughing and paracetamol. Ten days ago, I was
ahead of the game, this morning I realise that this is no longer the case and the annual Christmas panic, the panic I was hoping to avoid this year, is upon me once more. It’s
part of the tradition, I suppose. On the bright side, the girls made some paper chains, and there is a half-decorated tree in the sitting room.

P1190369 I had planned a few more Bristol Christmas shopping posts, but time is running out on that front. I will however, mention two nice shows which are worth visiting if you are in Bristol and  still searching for one or two special presents.

centre space

The first is the annual Centre Space Studios Christmas exhibition, Spruce, a mixed show featuring prints, paintings, textiles and sculpture. Prices range from £5 to several hundred pounds. The gallery is open daily from 11am to 5pm until Thursday 20th December. The gallery is on Leonard Lane, just off Corn Street and a stone’s throw from St Nicks, so you can easily combine a visit to both.

P1190112The second show is The December Gallery Group at Bristol Guild, which includes works by five Bristol-based artists, the most interesting of whom is Joanna Wright. I must register a slight bias here in that I have known Jo all my life, but the fact remains her paintings, her prints and her exquisite screen-printed, appliquéd and beaded cushions, are all really wonderful. I am a huge fan of her work, not least I suppose because so many of her images contain my two great passions – plants and lovely old bits of china.

P1190117 P1190116My photographs really do not do justice to her work, but the show runs until Christmas Eve so if you are rushing about on Park Street over the next week or so, make a point of popping in to The Guild, and head up to the top floor gallery space.

christmas: paper scissors stone

P1190170So, December is upon us. Time, I think, for a little shopping tour of Bristol. And where better to start than Paper Scissors Stone, a pop-up art and craft emporium which shows every sign of having become semi-permanent.

Volume 5 – the Christmas issue, as it were – has just thrown open its doors…

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Curated by Bryony Morgan, director of Made in Bristol, Paper Scissors Stone is filled with an eclectic selection of works by some of Bristol’s most interesting artists and designers.

There are works to suit all tastes and all budgets and the many highlights include: Christina de la Mare’s quirky doorstops; jolly bags, tea towels and prints bearing bold typography by Susan Taylor; prints by Simon Tozer, Peskimo, and Lou Archell; exquisite dolls and brooches by Jess Quinn; leather purses by Kay Morgan and ceramics by Hanne Rysgaard. All in all, Paper Scissors Stone offers a refreshing alternative to the slightly hellish, often depressing, experience that is Christmas shopping. Only 20 more days to go!

Paper Scissors Stone                                                                                             Quakers Friars, Cabot Circus, Mon-Sun, 10am – 6pm until Dec 31st

planning

I know that Halloween is not to everyone’s taste, but in Montpelier it is celebrated with great enthusiasm (previous years’ fun here and here), though this year’s bash may be a rather low-key affair as it falls in the middle of half term and lots of families are away.

But of course none of this has dampened the girls’ excitement. In fact discussions have been underway for some time now: the picture above, which I thought was just another one of Martha’s endless drawings – she produces a lot – is actually a costume design. A design she is expecting me to follow when I make her costume. From scratch. Today. Eh?

When I complained that I’d had no warning, there was a loud chorus of “but mum you said you’d make me a dead bride/zombie red riding hood/creey doll costume” which, when I glowered at them across the breakfast table, quickly became a slightly sheepish, “well you didn’t say you wouldn’t!” So we are all off to Fabric Land in an hour or so, in search of red fleece, white netting, and whatever else I think I might be able to magic into something spooky with my limited sewing skills. We’ll tackle the pumpkin tonight.

money, money, money

Launched last week, bought on Monday afternoon at Bristol Credit Union, these beautiful Bristol pounds (£B) are still in my purse this morning despite several attempts to part with them. Although a number of businesses on the Gloucester Road are part of the scheme they were not the ones I needed to visit. Still, I’ve had fun flashing the cash at bemused check-out staff and hopefully a few more shops will sign up.

Fortunately, although burning a hole in my purse, £Bs won’t depreciate in value if they aren’t spent unlike their German counterparts, the Chiemgauer  – one of the most successful alternative currencies in the world, and possibly the model for Bristol’s system.

Anyway, I have high hopes that all the independent traders on the Gloucester Road will soon be taking £B. It will be interesting to see whether or not it boosts the local economy as planned, or proves to be nothing more than a nice idea that never quite takes off.

A the moment the £B is worth £1, and it can be ‘bought’ in a free, straight exchange at various points around the city including The Tobacco Factory and Bristol Credit Union.

The idea, I suppose, is that in exchanging sterling for £B one is committing to buying locally and, crucially, from independent businesses rather than national or international companies such as Tesco or Asda* (Walmart). Local farmers based outside Bristol, but who sell at the various farmer’s markets around the city, are also being encouraged to sign up, which is great, as I think the success of the system will rest on there being the widest possible range of goods available to currency holders.

I will report back on my future attempts to spend my squeaky clean Bristol notes, which, I must point out, are really very, very lovely, especially the fiver which was designed by the wonderful Alex Lucas whose house I wrote about here.

NB  Personally I don’t have a hang-up about these companies – sometimes they are the only source of whatever it is that I need. Some weeks I do an entire shop on the Gloucester road and other weeks I go to… whisper it … Tesco.

going solo

The girls returned to school yesterday and I found myself alone for the first time in six weeks. I wandered down the road to buy a newspaper, delighting in the fact that there was no one at my elbow begging for sweets.

Elbow room and head space – that’s what I’ve missed. It’s been a lovely summer break, but it’s nice to be alone again for part of the day. A treat to walk around the neighbourhood and take in the changes that have occurred over the summer, such as these houses on Picton Street, which were spruced up in August.

Yesterday, I was struck by the lovely graffiti-like play of sunlight on the walls. In fact at first I really thought it was graffiti, a sort of weird washed out version of the Olympics logo!

Although Montpelier is fairly scuzzy in places – mindless tags adorn walls and bins, and we seem to have far more than our fair share or dog shit – the neighbourhood is also full of real beauty. In particular its wonderful mix of architecture: Georgian townhouses and cottages, Victorian villas and terraces, and even one or two interesting 20th and 21st-century additions. Of course there are plenty of duds in the mix as well, whole rows of dull, mean-looking 80s Toy Town nothingness. But the mix is the thing. For me the scuzz points up the beauty so, dog shit aside, I’m happy to put up with all the tagging, and even a bit of litter, because, when taken as a whole, Montpelier has immense charm and character.

And it’s lovely to resume my term time routine – a daily (nosy) stroll around the streets, admiring other people’s window boxes and gardens, their front doors and curtains.

grey sky graffiti

I’ve been rather housebound recently. Lots of work, which is nice, and lots of random projects, also nice, and lots of domestic drudge, not nice. The dreadful weather has also played its part. And so apart from the obligatory dog walk I haven’t really been out and about in the neighbourhood that much. In fact, when I come to think about it, my walks with Sybil have changed recently and taken me further afield than usual – out into the woods or up to Ashton Court rather than the local park. Somehow wet weather is more bearable in the countryside.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that a) I haven’t posted much about my favourite piece of local graffiti, the squiggle man, and b) the fact that I hadn’t spotted this new version of him until this morning, when I did venture back to the local park.

It seems that he’s having a bit of a yellow and grey moment too. That’s when he’s not feeling green …

Or off on a skiing trip ..

This last photo was taken by my neighbour, Sarah, who knows about my obsession with Mr Squiggle, and couldn’t quite believe her eyes when she spotted him lurking near their hotel in Chamonix when they were skiing earlier in the year.

swinging in the rain

This weekend’s incredibly muddy walk: Abbot’s Pool, just along from Leigh Woods.

There is a large lake, a smaller pool and several little water falls, but best of all a very high tyre swing. This is the one walk the girls are always up for, come rain or shine.

wet, wet, wet

Life at the moment seems to consist of endless rainy walks with lots of mud.

The dog loves it and, although not my favourite walking weather, I don’t really mind the rain either, even when it’s black-sky biblical stuff. Or at least I don’t mind whilst I’m out there in it, but when I get home and find that my knees are cold and damp, and a change of clothes is the only way to get warm and comfortable, I begin to resent it. So much so that I usually don’t bother – wet jeans are surprisingly difficult to take off.