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Garlic Prawns & Californian Chopped Salad


Hungry just reading this from super-mum and accomplished cook at the buckwheat adventure…

Originally posted on The Buckwheat Adventure:

Lettuce is like conversation: it must be fresh and crisp, and so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it. ” – Charles Dudley Warner (1871)

I spend a fair amount of time, particularly during the British winter, daydreaming about how my life would be if I lived in California. Conclusion? It’d be 52 kinds of awesome. I’d go everywhere in my gym kit, carrying my eco-friendly glass water bottle and a yoga mat under my arm, flashing my amazing veneers at everybody and never actually going to the gym. I would get my kale & beetroot juice next to Julianne Moore every day and marvel at her hair close up.

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How to nurture creative little minds

I’m researching for a piece I’m writing on kids design in Country & Town House Magazine and have trawled my favourite blogs. Lo and behold I’ve stumbled upon something so naive, so moving that I wanted to share it.

Fine artist and graphic designer Ayelet Gazit in Tel Aviv has been knitting and needle-felting Lazy Animals with the help of a local special needs centre. The finger puppets come in pairs or ‘small families’, on mobiles or in shadow boxes (their ‘habitats’)

Not only are these little creatures charming and whimsical but they represent something forgotten in modern childhood – the value of simple, imaginative play.

I know what Small is getting for his next birthday…

Lounging at the Lodge

If the quintessential Georgian market town of Alresford, in Hampshire, needs another draw – here it is.

The Lodge is a pretty little hideaway a casual stroll from the chocolate-box high street (complete with interior design shops spilling over with union linen and heavily curated antiques, of course), tucked into the corner of a beautiful family home. On a fresh spring morning, throw open the doors onto a large garden, with its own mini lake and a treehouse dangling a magical rope swing.

Inside, the lodge has recently been converted to sleep four in very stylish surroundings. Downstairs there’s a comprehensive eat-in kitchen, a lovely bathroom and a comfortable twin bedroom, ideal for kids. Upstairs the living room has gaping windows with views across the fields and countryside beyond, making the lodge feel utterly rural, even though it’s as close to the shops and cafés of the town as you would want.

It’s too tempting not to pick up the Arle Valley trail, the winding river path is idyllic. A hop on the Watercress Line steam railway will entertain kids, especially if you time it to coincide with a day out with Thomas. Then take your pick for a lazy lunch in Alresford, The Globe has gorgeous gardens backing onto Arle Lake and is the sister property to the award-winning Chesnut Horse in nearby Easton. Or stop at Caracoli (The Telegraph‘s small business of the year in 2012) for the best coffee outside London. Take a short drive to the historical City of Winchester or watch an al fresco performance at the Grange Park opera. 

Forget dinner plans though. You’ll want to cater at home so that you are sipping a cool glass of local Champagne in the living room (or the terrace, if the weather permits) as a flock of swans cross the salmon skies at sunset like confetti. Then hunker down in the deep sofas with a good book or a board game and enjoy the silence and darkness – both surprising in their absoluteness.

You shop, they strop, says Sarah Hall

Gorgeous spring boots from Geox

Gorgeous spring boots from Geox

Shoe shopping with my five-year old always sends one or other of us into a rage and the February half-term excursion is no exception. Tempting though it is to file the trip under ‘au pair responsibilities’ and head off to a spa, I brave it and after an agonising hour, we stumble across Geox. 

Not one, but two pairs of boots are deemed acceptable to Alice. That’s high credit.

As Alice slips her stubborn little feet into a pair of unassuming black boots, I hold my breath.

They don’t rub. They aren’t too short. Too tall. Too black. Too leather. Too boot-like. I resist the urge to run to the till –  a human bowling-ball, knocking a wave of innocent customers aside in my rush to pay before she changes her mind.

I pay. We leave. Nobody cries.

Thank you Geox for making beautiful, relationship-saving children’s shoes.

Capturing the imagination

I love the medium of photography. I have published my travel pictures in various magazines, but it’s easy to catch a beautiful moment in a beautiful place with a great camera – that’s not an art form, it’s luck. But if I ever get the chance to commission someone to do a portrait of my boys, to capture the beauty, the wonder, the possibility that their childhood holds, I will call Swedish-born Anna Hurtig. And this is why…

Heavenly half-term hotel: The Gunton Arms, Norfolk

history1What a coup. No, it’s not the deer park, spectacular though it is. Nor the glorious art collection that runs from lewd Emin plates and neon light installations to classical oils. It’s not even the Robert Kime interiors that cleverly look as though they are care worn rather than curated (they even stained the wood on door frames after painting to make it look dirty. Glad I asked, I thought it was). It’s the combination of it all.

The rooms are gorgeous, crammed with antique furniture and decorated with Kime’s lived-in, aristocratic old summer-house touch. The food has made this a destination for locals – those in coloured chinos as much as those in muck boots – London art collectors, and savvy families.

You’re close to Cromer (a real throwback of a seaside town, absolutely cries out for a stroll and an ice-cream, sod the rain). You’re half an hour from Blakeney where little boats bob like toys in a bathtub and kids crab in the shallows. Oh but you’re an hour from Holkham, the beach of beaches, the beach that Gwyneth Paltrow meandered across during the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love.

Flanked by dunes and pine forests, huge skies wrap across the seascape in a way hardly seen in the northern hemisphere. Summer is lovely and never too crowded but mine’s a blustery winter walk. Take a camera. Take a thermos and snacks, it’s a 20 minute walk from where you park your car to the water’s edge, longer with toddlers, longer still if they like splashing in the rivulets left behind by a high tide.

Heaven is half-term in Norfolk.  The Gunton Arms, 01263 832010

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