Thursday, 22 December 2016

frosty mornings

A few weeks ago we headed home to celebrate my Dad’s rather significant birthday. Mum had organised a drinks party and left us in charge of sourcing the present; a record player. Having scoured what seems like the entire country, we arrived on the Friday night laden with gifts ready to celebrate the next day.

The weather all weekend was perfect, crisp and cold and although the house was not ‘christmassy’ at the time, it certainly felt it outside. After all the celebrations, which carried on late into the night, a bracing walk the next day was much appreciated. We popped out into the middle of the farm with the dogs for an explore. The fields were hard with frost and every branch looked to be dripping in diamonds. Wrapped up warm we trudged through the brambles and breathed in the cool air.


Even Callie braved the cold after being poorly! 

We are returning home early on Christmas Eve morning and shall once again be laden with gifts. The weather isn’t looking as seasonal but at least this time the house will be festive! I predict many more bracing walks to blow out the cobwebs, cuddles with the dogs and a record of two spinning in the background.

Merry Christmas! Keep your eyes peeled for a festive post later in the week.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

padella, pumpkins & pollock

With some left over holiday to take before the New Year, I made the most of an extra long weekend and took Friday off. Lucky for me Sarah also had the day free so we headed to Padella at Borough Market for pasta. I've seen many an Instagram of Padella and just knew I had to try it out; not just for the delicious bowls of authentic pasta but also to get a look at the great marble bar. 

Having read that it's good to get there early we rocked up at 11.45 and joined the already formed queue. The doors opened at 12 and we found ourselves perched at the marble bar with a view of the chefs whipping up fresh pasta. 

We ordered crisp glasses of white and the creamiest burrata to start with.

Then chose to share three dishes; the Holy Trinity of Padella. Tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley; pappardelle with 8 hour Dexter beef shin ragu; pico cacio and pepe. All were superb and just the right size. We definitely didn't need so much but what can a girl do on her day off?! Plus it's all so cheap, we only paid 18 pounds each! 

Having had our fill we mooched around Borough Market and bought some pumpkins for our home, had a snoop of all the fresh produce and bought some Bread Ahead doughnuts for the boys. I love any kind of market but Borough is particularly great because of its buzzing barrow boy atmosphere. Sarah and I decided we'd come back again for freshly chucked oysters, sat on the upturned vegetable crates. 

A walk was somewhat needed in the afternoon so we made the rash decision to visit some galleries and enjoy some culture. We popped down the road to The White Cube. I've never been before but Sarah had and recommended it. We had a look around the Anthony Gormley exhibition, which although very abstract, was actually really cool in the end. Everything is based around the human form and is very interactive. If you find yourself in the area I recommend you drop by to have a look!

Moving away from the area we hopped on the tube to Bond Street and stopped off at The Royal Academy to see the Abstract Expressionism show. Both of us are Friends of The RA which makes it so easy to enjoy all their fantastic shows. We took a quick trot around - I'm not sure either of us were totally focusing on the task in hand - and discovered a new found love for Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock. Despite our fleeting visit this was a good exhibition and I would probably go back again when I wasn't so full of delicious pasta. 

After a spell of shopping we parted ways and vowed to do the same in the near future. I miss our afternoon jaunts from our boarding school days  so it's especially nice to find the time to catch up and relax, away from the 9-5. All we need now is Mel and the Power Puff Girls will be reunited forever! 


Saturday, 15 October 2016

stow on the wold

Escaping the hustle and bustle of the big smoke is always a joy, you can practically feel the shackles of London life breaking free as soon as you pull out of Paddington and head into the golden light of the Cotswolds. Last weekend we did just that and boarded a packed train on Friday night for a weekend in the English countryside.

I found myself back in the driving seat on Saturday having been in retirement for almost two years (!) so it was good to have a bit more freedom and allow mum some time off from playing taxi man. Saturday was a beautiful autumn day so we headed to Cheltenham for a little morning shop and lunch. The American has never been to Cheltenham and I’ve been telling him how lovely it is for years now so we thought this would be a good first stop. We didn’t have much to get but I did buy our advent calendar at Mayther, a great card and stationery shop. Lunch was at a favourite, Huffins, a sweet little bakery cafĂ© with its origins firmly in the Cotswolds. Having had our fill of Welsh rarebit we set off into the heart of the Cotswolds.

My little car needed some encouragement when it came to reaching the top of the hills and entering Stow on the Wold but we made it! We arrived late in the afternoon and were welcomed by that glorious golden light that looks even better reflecting off the honey coloured stone houses synonymous with the area. My heart does flips whenever I’m here, I can never get over how beautiful it is and how high up you feel; like on top of the world! We snooped around and although most of the shops were closing (I actually find this so refreshing having been used to a city which never sleeps) we had a great time peering through the windows of antique shops, estate agents and crumbling pubs.

As many of you know, living in the Cotswolds is pretty high up on my list so I got very excited thinking about the possibility of actually doing this; perhaps I’ll go freelance and The American can crunch numbers in London during the week and come back to the honey village at weekends? Or perhaps we’ll both just pack it all in and run a farm and a florist shop. Either way, we’ll try and make it a reality. 

Sunday was a relaxed affair with a clay pigeon shooting lesson in the morning and then a roast back at home. The lesson was a belated birthday present for him and he is now hankering after another go having discovered he's incredibly good... looks like I'll be booking more lessons in the near future.

It's always a bitter sweet goodbye on the platform at Pershore - we love to get back to the smoke but always wish the weekends could be another day longer and we could spend more time at home. I'm sure I'm not the only one who hankers after a three day weekend every time?!


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

makers house

During London Fashion Week Burberry took over a disused warehouse on Mannette Street in the heart of Soho. Makers House is the result; a cavernous platform in which the latest collection was shown, alongside the talented craftsmen involved in the process, as well as other heritage crafters. We popped along on the last evening to soak up everything Burberry had to offer and we weren’t disappointed.  

Inspired by the great interior designer Nancy Lancaster the interior acted as a stage for various craftsmen and women. We patiently queued up to catch a glimpse at women manipulating leather for beautiful embossed saddles as well as a sculptor working on a clay maquette, an artist painstakingly completing an intricate lacquered tile and portrait painter Holly Frean doing individual commissions of visitors. All whilst this was happening poetry was being recited over a sound system but I can’t say we took much notice of this as we were taken by everything else. We both enjoyed the crafts on display but The American thought the poetry was all “a bit wanky”... Moving on!

Regardless, it provided a fantastic opportunity to see hugely talented artists and makers at work. I was particularly taken by the silk screen printed swatches which hung on the walls forming a sort of pin board of ideas. It was a shame we missed the screen printing display the day before but never mind, it has inspired me to pick up my paint brushes again and find my creative groove once more (I used to do a lot of silk screen printing at school).

I hope London hosts more events like this in the near future, I could have spent much longer there but I could sense The American was hankering after a pint… he had just spent the morning in a financial exam after all.  We topped the evening off with dinner and drinks at our local and collapsed into bed by 10. How’s that for the perfect school night activity?!


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

hearty minestrone

Autumn is certainly creeping up on us and although I refuse to wear tights until October, I am becoming increasingly more inclined to cook up some seasonal delights. I have stumbled across a few deliciously autumnal recipes over the last few weeks, including an Indian-spiced shepherd’s pie (topped with a smooth sweet potato mash), a plum frangipane tart and a comforting pasta dish for those wet Saturday evenings. But perhaps my greatest discovery has been a hearty minestrone soup which will feed you happily all week. I like to save money and take lunch to work so this has been a godsend; it’s so easy and I don’t have to think about whipping something up before I leave the house in the morning. Sophie and I devoured a big bowl of this one Saturday, alongside some crusty bread and cool glasses of elderflower cordial.

Start off by frying some smoked bacon lardons, let them get a good colour before adding your chopped onion, garlic and selected veg. I like to stay traditional and use celery, carrots and courgettes. Season with salt and pepper, fresh sage and a bay leaf.

Leave the veg to soften before adding a pint of chicken stock, two cans of chopped tomatoes, a can of strained cannellini beans and half a cup of small pasta (I use stars which are meant for kids but they work perfectly for this recipe). 

Leave to simmer on a low for 25 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. This is not a soupy soup but more of a hearty bowl of vegetables in a delicious rich sauce. I like to add either kale or cabbage at the last minute to give just another bite. It's not a thing of beauty but my goodness, does it taste good. 

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and some basil. Sometimes is the simple things that really blow you away. 

I can't believe it's nearly the end of the month! I have lots of plans for the coming weeks, including buying more furniture for the house so keep you eyes peeled for new posts! 

Hope you've been enjoying these beautiful golden evenings- I know I have! 


Monday, 12 September 2016

hampstead market

This weekend Sarah and I headed up the newly opened Hampstead Market. Located behind the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead Parochial Primary School the market was brimming with delicious treats and a bustling crowd. Despite the awful weather our spirits were high and we were after a few key ingredients for our brunch. From fresh eggs to beautiful heritage tomatoes, the market offered a world of treats.

Brunch was a leek and chorizo frittata but we also got distracted by beautifully striped aubergines so endeavoured to whip up a quick baba ganoush. Oh, and the tomatoes were too beautiful to give up too so we bought some to preserve. It’s very easy to get carried away with buying delicious-looking produce, even in the pouring rain. We pawed over olives and anchovies but restrained from buying an entire bucket.

Back at Sarah’s flat we got to work and whipped up a very easy frittata: boiled potatoes, one chopped leek, garlic, chorizo and four eggs. It’s so simple, anyone can do it; just remember to finish under the grill to get a nice crispy top. We also charred and cooked our aubergine directly on the gas top – this is the only way you’ll get that wonderful smoky taste. Then we simply blended with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt. A simple brunch made in under 30 minutes.

This week might be the last of the summer weather so I’m making the most of it with plenty of late evening walks and light salads before the long stretch of autumn soups. I’m trying very hard not to get carried away by autumn fashions but it’s so hard! Let me skip around in sun dresses just a few weeks longer!