23 August 2016

Greens for Brunch at Poco – Stokes Croft, Bristol

Sometimes a change from all those pancakes and full English breakfasts is needed. On days when I wake up and my head just won't sit still I head down to Poco in Stokes Croft. They do some seriously good brunch; their website describes it as New York inspired. You'll still get your bacon and eggs but not quite perhaps like you know them.

I've had aching bones and Poco's been there for me, buttered greens and steaming coffee, waiting with open arms to envelope me in warmth and goodness. There is homemade food to be devoured in the kindest environment, even when your head hurts so much you have to wear your sunnies inside. Brunch at Poco will renew your soul, I swear.

Poco was the first place I visited when I moved here last year, actually, and it certainly set the bar high. They keep their menu small, doing only a few dishes – but doing them well.

Every time I go here I get the field mushroom, labneh, za'atar, poached eggs, grilled sourdough and greens and every time I am left feeling totally nourished and ready for the day. It's just good food made well in one of my favourite parts of the city. I guess the decor is right up my street, too. But who doesn't love stripped back wooden tables and chairs?

Tom is a top brunch pal. Before he moved into our house I asked God to give us someone who would be up for whimsical trips, and someone who would come with me on breakfast trips. It's so kind when He delivers on totally indulgent things like that, but He did, 100%, and I'm thankful for Tom's spontaneity; it's such a great trait to have.

The coffee was super rich and dark; my favourite kind, and the perfect partner for my field mushroom dish - which always hits the spot.

The eggs were poached to stunning white perfection, the greens cooked just so that they still had their bite, the labneh thick, creamy and zingy and the sourdough toast held everything together. But it was the mushrooms that were the star of the show – drenched in butter and just the most delectable things I have ever eaten – I could have had a plate of them alone. 

Here I can eat veggie dishes without really thinking of them as the veggie option. When a dish doesn't need meat to taste good, that's when you know you've found hit the jackpot. The combination of flavours, textures and freshness of the ingredients is what makes Poco stand out from everywhere else - you really must go and see for yourself.

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16 August 2016

The Wait

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  
– Psalm 37:7
I’m so tired. I’m so tired that lifting myself up, out of this slumped-down-to-my-chin position in bed to open up my laptop to write this thing is the last straw. The very last straw. I'm serious. It's so heavy I can't think what to do. The longer I'm here the heavier it's...

I don't cry but I think if I did I would feel better.
I'm stuck in between losing it and getting on with it. How do I get to just one?

Everything fun has sucked out by this city that I still love more than anywhere else in the world. I'm not sure who or what I'm supposed to blame, so I hate nothing and I blame nothing. It's something – it could be a lot worse. Like that time when I woke up one day feeling sad for no reason. Here's a reason. 

I go for a drink with friends only to be pulled into this black hole when my phone rings with yet more rejection. No reason. Just rejection. You don't really think about the bad stuff in life until rejection is thrown at you, over and over. Then it feels like there's no point to anything. I’m fighting against a tide that just won't give. Determined to pull me under. Waves crash over me with some waiting in between, sometimes going harder, saltier, sometimes throwing me off guard with their awkward angles, stinging my eyes and ears and throat. It doesn’t ever get easier. It only gets more infuriating, but He is the constant and He is the one thing keeping me going. Something inside of me is holding onto that.

He has my back, even when those who claim to do His will are the ones who put me in this position. How does that work? God doesn’t take sides but He’s always on mine, you should know that.

Every limb is a dead weight, my head so heavy I don't know where to go first with its thoughts and as I write this I want to stop because nothing I write makes sense anyway. But what does giving up look like? 

I wouldn't know where to start with being homeless. The thought alone is making me panic. My stomach writhes; a mixture of pain from my period starting this morning and stress. I know what that feels like because my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety when I was 19. He told me I was tense and that to help myself I should lie down on my bed and relax every single piece of my body, even my eyelashes. I didn't understand anxiety back then. Maybe in five years' time I'll say the same about my idea of it now. I'm scared of my present self. Every year or so I look back on events past, thinking how stupid I was and how much smarter I am now. But it's always going to be like that, so I'm never smart, really.

There are boxes everywhere. Boxes piled up so high they're blocking the light straining through the window. Everything that doesn't fit into a box is lying around waiting for me, for something. So still, but what a mess. There are boxes in my head for every option – boxes for every possible avenue. Will I find a home today? 

So, this is what it feels like to be tugged and tugged until a part of you rips. This is what it’s like to be tested – truly – to have evil laugh in your face because you did what was right and not what was easy. 

I still see the things I love – the sun rising, the tree-lined streets, the warmth of August sinking in. The people I love are still the people I love. There are parts of the day when I forget. Breakfast is still my favourite, especially on weekends when it's pancakes and bacon and as much coffee as I want because I can still nap with all that caffeine inside of me. 

Take a breath – I'm reminded that this is the most difficult summer I’ve ever endured. And for the strangest, most inexplicable reason. But there’s a flickering inside of me; the smallest flame on a single-wick candle, burning, and refusing to be snuffed out by this wind. It's that small, strong reminder that with Him this season is ever so slightly sweeter than it is bitter.

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28 July 2016

Recuperating in Puglia, Italy

I love being able to choose when I take my time off work. Working a 'regular' job means I get to go on holiday when flights and hotels are cheaper – New York in February, for example, is a fraction of the price as New York in August, not to mention more bearable weather-wise. I've also enjoyed long weekends in Paris, Barcelona, and, most recently, a week in Puglia, Italy. So I guess you could say there are some benefits of no longer being in education, as much as I miss those long summer holidays.

At the beginning of July I flew to Bari with my mum, dad and sister and we hired a car to drive to the small village of Coreggia, near Alberobello. It was quiet, and with virtually no other tourists in sight I was in my element. Fellow introverts will know where I'm coming from when I say I need time to just be. I needed to unwind after a busy six months of constant working and socialising and Italy offered just that.

We spent most days wondering around various towns and villages, visiting markets and the locals' favourite restaurants. I ate the sweetest peaches, devoured Nutella on bread for breakfast, discovered mozzarella's sister, burrata, and even learnt some Italian thanks to Duolingo. 

I ate more tomatoes that week than I have all year – but if you knew how flavoursome they were you'd understand. Everything tasted exactly as it should and it was all so ridiculously cheap.

I've forgotten the name of this restaurant, but it had recently opened in Ostuni and employed the kindest staff. My spaghetti 'Nicola' came drenched in olive oil with a roasting hot pan of tomato sauce on the side, which I was to add as I pleased. I tried the spaghetti without the sauce and it was the best I'd ever tasted; silky, al dente and the olive oil actually tasted like olives. The rich sauce made it even more exquisite.

My favourite gelato was this watermelon one I found in Ostuni, sitting on top of an even more delicious peach offering. How do the Italians get it so right with their food?

I mostly wore dresses on my holiday – it was too hot for anything else - and this Monki number served me so well: 
Dress: Monki (£20!!), Sandals: Primark. Sunglasses: Topshop Bag: Skinnydip (ASOS)

A week away was just right, and by Saturday morning I was ready to come home to Bristol and get back into the swing of regular life. As I re-familiarised myself with the comfort of my own bed, I realised that bit of variety in life is sometimes all we need.

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