I’ve not blogged much in 2018 and the year has raced by. As we got a new addition to our family today, I thought it was high time for an update. Grab a cuppa and catch-up here.
I can’t believe it’s already December and we put our Christmas tree up last night. It feels like I’ve blinked and the months have flown past since the summer. My wife Sarah and I took the kids to Spain (pictured above) in August, just south of Barcelona. Life since the madness of Bake Off four years ago has settled back down to normal in most aspects, but whenever I meet Americans abroad I tend to bump into lots of fans of the Great British Baking Show, as I did in Barcelona this summer. It’s such a nice side-effect of everything I’ve been through and I really love that the show is still enjoyed by so many, thanks to Netflix.
There’s been quite a lot of change for our family this year. In January, Sarah started a great new job working for the National Trust. For my blog readers from outside the UK, the National Trust is Europe’s largest conservation charity – they look after historic buildings all over the country, as well as loads of coastline and countryside. Sarah’s job involves a lot of travel so I’ve taken this year out to do major renovations to our own home. This means I’m around a lot for the kids, and I’ve really appreciated this time with them. I’m personally really passionate about all aspects of conservation and went to university at night school (Birkbeck College – a fantastic place) ten years ago to study for a BSc in Biodiversity & Conservation.
Hearing about the variety of Sarah’s work every day inspired me to apply for an MSc in Historic Building Conservation, which I started in September this year at the Weald & Downland Museum in Sussex. It’s been a bit of a challenge dusting off the old grey matter to start studying again, but I’m so glad I’ve done it. Before I applied for Bake Off I was really keen to start working in conservation, and since then, the opportunities I’ve had mean that my baking-related work just about covers the cost of my studies. I’ve just submitted my first essay on a medieval timber-framed building – the most writing I’ve had to do since my recipe book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, but quite different content!
My home renovations and the Master’s degree course have meant there’s been a real shortage of baking in my kitchen in 2018. However, I now have a fantastic new kitchen with loads of worktop space (above), so I’m really hoping to get innovating again in 2019. I’m also going to get my act together to run baking workshops from home, so if you’re near North London (or visiting) and you’d be interested in small, private classes, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m really chuffed with the new kitchen – it’s always been the heart of the house but there’s just so much space now. I’ve also built an awesome bar, which we’ll be hitting up for a Christmas Eve cocktail night with our neighbours. I’m learning the piano (slowly, badly) this year too, to try and keep up with my daughters. The kitchen has all my framed Tom Hovey Bake Off prints on the wall too (see pics below). And we also have an incredible new English oak dining table, made by my fantastic friend Pip.
One of the downsides to working from home all year is that it can be pretty solitary. As my family building firm is fairly small, I don’t really have many colleagues so I’ve loved being part of a wider Bake Off family.
A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I had a catch-up with some of the awesome Baker’s Dozen marathon team (pictured above). I’ve said it before, but honestly, all of the Bake Off alumni I’m friends with are such interesting people. All ‘doers’, all creative, and really great to spend time with. I’m so proud of this year’s London Marathon achievement too, even though I’ve barely done any exercise since!
Last Friday I popped into town for lunch with the four awesome people above – Martha, Chetna, Iain and Kate. It was so good to see them all. We’re all really excited about Chetna’s third book, being published next month and available to pre-order here. It’s Martha’s wedding next year too, which will be a fantastic celebration for a wonderful couple.
The big news for us this weekend is the new addition to our family. We’ve had our lovely Hungarian vizsla, Leia (pictured above), for over seven years now. The kids have grown up with her, and she’s the sweetest dog, with such a kind and gentle temperament. I’m lucky that I’m at home with her most days, and my Mum (who lives opposite) walks her every day too. But for some time now I’ve been keen she had a doggy companion.
A few months ago a colleague of Sarah’s got a rescue cocker spaniel. A few weeks after getting her, they took her to the vet and discovered she’d be having puppies imminently. Seven puppies later, and we decided it was the right time for us to adopt one of them. We chose the smallest of the litter and today, Steve came home to live with us! Our existing dog is called Leia, after Princess Leia from my favourite film franchise, Star Wars. Sarah had wanted to call our new puppy ‘Captain’, after Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music – her favourite film. As soon as she suggested the name ‘Captain’, the kids (and this was one of my proudest parenting moments) said “there’s only one Captain, and that’s Captain Steve Rogers“, and so Steve it was! It looks like Steve is a cocker spaniel too, but as his Mum was a rescue dog, we can’t be sure. What we do know, is that he’s absolutely adorable, and Leia has already been fantastic with him today. We feel so lucky to have him.
So life is busy, life is good, life is interesting and stimulating but there hasn’t been much baking, so I’ve not really felt I had much to update my blog with. There have also been some very sad times for our friends, and their experiences over the past two years have kept life in perspective for us. I’m going to try to blog monthly through 2019, and share a monthly recipe too. In the meantime, thanks for all the support people show me on such a regular basis on social media. I really appreciate it and it’s kept me motivated this year. I hope you all have fantastic Christmases and as you reflect on 2018 that it’s been more good than bad. There will probably be puppy pictures and Christmas bakes galore on my Instagram but until next time, Happy Baking!