20 September 2017

The Angel Bakery – Abergavenny

It's no real surprise, but recently my taste for the mass-produced, plastic-covered, soft-sliced bread found in supermarkets has dissipated, allowing my love for handmade, stretchy, crunchy sourdough to soar. Homely bakeries seem to be popping up just about everywhere right now, but only a few get it 100% right. The Angel Bakery fits in this category, and it just so happens to be in Abergavenny, my little teenage town in Wales.

Tucked just behind Abergavenny's main road, The Angel Bakery is an extension of its big sister, The Angel Hotel. If you're a long-time reader of my blog, you might remember one of my very first posts was a review of the afternoon tea at The Angel. Four years later and my love for what they do hasn't wavered.

Rivalling the likes of Harts and Bakery 47, The Angel Bakery covers all fronts: fresh bread (about a hundred varieties), pastries, brioche buns, brownies, truffles and coffee. I am sure that, depending on what day you visit, there will be a new treasure to devour, and this is one of the reasons The Angel Bakery is so special.

Being so used to the busy people of Bristol eating my favourite bakery out of its incredible pain au chocolat, I got up early on Saturday to get first dibs at The Angel Bakery. My fellow bread lover, Emily, came with me and we perched on the stalls inside, nibbling pastries (an almond croissant and raspberry danish), while the girls made our coffee. 

Everything – from the friendly service to the golden coffee machine – was perfect. I took a loaf of the fennel, raisin & hazelnut sourdough home and ate the whole thing in two days. When so much passion, love and hard work goes into something as delightful as The Angel Bakery, it's impossible to leave without a bit of that magic lingering in you. Just go and see for yourself.

13 September 2017

Bakers & Co – Bristol

I can take or leave a lie in. Mornings are sacred – the hours slip by and with them disappears the fresh calm I love so much. I have always been an early bird, and as summer draws to a close, I am desperate to make the most of the bright starts that are now, inevitably, numbered.

Emily and I wandered down to Bakers & Co a few weeks ago for an early morning brunch. Em's willingness to get up early for food is one of the reasons we are friends. We got there just after it had opened. It was quiet, golden and crisp – the perfect Saturday morning.

We sat outside and I ordered the smashed avocado on toast with a side of two poached eggs. Bakers & Co does the best smashed avo in Bristol, by the way. Emily got the pork belly with potatoes and egg, with a side stack of sourdough. I've realised that any dish can be elevated, or salvaged, with the addition of sourdough – it is just the best.

The coffee was strong, the flavours were fresh and vibrant and we were justifiably stuffed once we'd cleaned our plates. Bakers & Co is deceptively different. On the outside it looks like just another cafe, but step inside and you're greeted with fresh loaves of bread, friendly staff and an ever-changing menu. I only wish it were a little closer to home.

6 September 2017

Where is Your Identity?

Do you ever bury your words? I began writing this in May but my anxious nature left it in the drafts. I worry about who will read this. What will you think? But, sometimes, a moment of bravery brings you back – both in writing and in life. 

About four years ago, I woke up one day with an enormous weight of sadness hanging over me. I was a final year creative writing student in Cheltenham, and that was my life. I could pinpoint exactly what it was that triggered it, the beginning of it all, but there were so many other things to come. It was a snowball effect. There was no single reason. Not one I can pinpoint. If there was someone or something I could blame it would be easy.

My 21st Birthday was one I would rather have forgotten, had it not been for my family. You don't realise how fortunate you are, how much worse it could be, how much love there is in the world, until it all goes to shit and your family is there to see you through. Had it not been for the smallest gestures, the constant love, the every-day smiles, I might not be here.

Mental illness isn't a choice, but the way you deal with it is. And you always have a choice. I chose to find a way, and now, four years later, I am still struggling, but I can say with great boldness that I am 100% myself.

It is now, when I look back, that I see what God did. He brought me back to Him.

When I went to university I turned my back on God. I couldn't wait to do whatever I wanted after living in a Christian household my whole life, and while it was fun to begin with, the inevitable downfall was not worth it. Not even a tiny bit.

Now I know who I am, I know where I am and, even though I don't know where I am going, I know where my identity lies. My purpose is in something much bigger than me or anyone on this earth. It isn't spread around in a random scattering, on anyone or anything. It doesn't land on whoever captures my attention for longer than a minute, or two. It lies solely in Him.

When I put my identity in other things I allowed a part of myself to be lost. Whatever it was... it couldn't keep me safe. Nothing is forever or as constant as the love of God. He was the only thing that stayed the same in the darkest moments of my life, and for that I thank Him every day.

I have lost love, friendships, time, experiences, a piece of myself... but what I lost was found ten times over when I put my identity back in Him. My life is richer now. I have a purpose. My identity is in Him and I am protected. And, when I feel like I'm beginning to falter – when I feel like I am losing a part of myself again – I re-centre my focus onto Him, and it is well with my soul.
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