hidden gardens

we once stayed near Shepton Mallet  and discovered this beautiful historical secret garden, Kilver Court.    it was so tranquil,  a perfect place to just visit and enjoy the view.   we stayed at a lovely hotel, Ston Easton Park for the night, which was sheer luxury – beautifully furnished with antiques and set in beautiful grounds.    The area of Somerset was lovely to explore, a lunch trip to Wells, the Mulberry Factory shop, the farm shop at Sharpham everything you need to make a weekend perfect.

i love the hidden gardens of london – tucked behind residential and industrial areas of london there are so many to discover;  i recently  visited st georges garden, just near to kings cross – a 300 year old burial ground, its a lovely breath of greenery in a somewhat park free part of town.    my architecture buddy Maria, took me to the gagosian gallery in kings cross first, then through st georges garden to the dairy arts centre.   both galleries are privately owned and show mainly contemporary art.   stop off at nearby patisserie des amis for a cuppa and cake.  Phoenix garden, right in the heart of Tottenham court road is a beautiful haven – Robert just took me there and what a delight.  there is also a community centre that you can hire for parties.

other secret gardens in london are Abney Park Cementery nature reserve in stoke newington, hampstead hill gardens and pergola in a little known pocket of hampstead heath, built by Lord Leverhulme for his parties a century ago.   the old english garden in battersea park is a more contemporary garden, recently revamped in battersea park.  camley street natural park is in the heart of kings cross that has been turned into a floating forest garden with pond meadow and woodland habitats.  so wherever you are , there is a hidden haven right in your city.  and of course,, the secret garden of the inner circle of regents park, where I brought up all my children – brings back lovely memories.

a day for mothers

did you know that we have been celebrating mothering sunday since the 16Century?  in the UK, mothers day always falls on the 4th sunday of Lent, which is why it never falls on the same day each year.

Mothering Sunday was also known as ‘Refreshment Sunday‘, Pudding Pie Sunday  or ‘Mid-Lent Sunday‘. It was a day in Lent when the fasting rules were relaxed, in honour of the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, a story in the Christian Bible.

today, it feels like another form of commercialism and something that you ought to do because everybody else does it – i think that every day we should remember how special mothers are – their job at times is a thankless task that we all take for granted.  today my husband is cooking lunch for the family – luckily he enjoys cooking, so that has become his role at home.

in chichicastanago, guatamala the flower girls strewn their flowers for sale on the famed church steps – the petals were used as part of the religious thanks ceremony.  Guatemala  was such a memorable place – its somewhere i would want to visit again.

whatever you are doing, have a lovely day!

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i still remember these lovely flowers that maude picked from our garden and sweetly put them in a egg cup – such a precious little thing and such a good idea for putting your flowers in – don’t you hate it when you buy a bunch of flowers and some of the stems are broken?

Pancake Tuesday

traditionally shrove tuesday is the day before ash wednesday when lent starts.   its considered a last feast with ingredients such as sugar, fat and eggs,  whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with lent.

my kids absolutely love pancakes, but due to lack of time in the mornings, they are only treated to pancakes on a weekend.  so whenever pancake tuesday arises, they are all excited to have pancakes in the evening!  they will have them savoury with ham and eggs, or sweet with nutella,  blueberries, bananas or plain old sugar and lemon.

the twelve days after xmas

tomorrow is the twelfth day after christmas and is traditionally the day that you take down your xmas decorations- so dont forget!    jan 6th is epiphany and is the day the three wise  men (magi) brought their gifts to the young Jesus;  so especially in Latin American countries, the 6th Jan is usually the day that presents are given rather than 25th december.   On the night of the 5th, instead of stockings, kids leave their shoes out, stuffed with straw. It’s not Santa who comes in the middle of the night leaving the children presents. Instead, it’s the three magi who come bringing gifts for the kids, just like when they gave the baby Jesus presents in honor of his birth. The straw in the children’s shoes is for the Wise Men’s camels to eat.

To celebrate the Epiphany in Spain there are often parades featuring the three magi…  it seems it doesnt take much excuse to put on a parade in spain, throughout the year there is always a festival, parade or street party to either celebrate a saints day, or notable date in the calendar! thats what I love about spain, its cultures and traditions that are still family celebrations.

I wish that i was there in spain to celebrate – have never made it at this time of year – one day.

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Boxing Day

did you know that boxing day was originally the day that servants and tradespeople received their gifts or xmas boxes from their employers?  sometimes their boxes would include leftover food as well as a gift and a bonus.   nowadays we associate boxing day with football matches, sale shopping and visiting friends and family that we missed on xmas day!  i start a box full of stuff for charity that i dont need any more – with all the new lovely xmas gifts to house, my policy of ‘one in one out’ kicks in, usually this happens when all the cupboards and drawers are brimming with so much stuff you can’t open them without things falling out.

tea

my favourite shops in Beijing were the tea shops, not only selling tea, but china, teapots, table mats, everything to make your tea time a beautiful experience.   we all now buy bags of tea as its easier to clean, but the ritual of leaves and a teapot makes it all the more special.  here are a few of the pots that I brought home.  the pu’er tea was a gift from my daughter last year and they are cherished like good old wines, the maturity and process of fermentation dictates the price, some we saw went up to thousands of pounds. I loved the simple packaging.

 

I will always remember when alice treated me for mothers day to afternoon tea at the teanamu chaya teahouse – it truly is a memorable experience to savour, especially if you are into the rituals of perfect chinese tea.   its definitely a girly treat, attention to detail with water temperature, beautiful oriental teapots and tableware.   the choice of teas is vast and beguiling, but Pei – the proprietor gracefully advises you what best suits your palate.  its definitely something to learn about, and coincidentally you can book onto a 2 hour masterclass to understand the making of tea and its ceremony.

you can also have courses in tea rituals at Mei Leaf  and tea tastings at postcard teas and for a big selection of interesting teas to buy try my cup of tea.

there is a tea shop in aldeburgh that sells pu’er tea and a great selection of other teas plus its nice for lunch – the Cragg Sisters tea room.

halloween

how did halloween get to be such an important event in the uk – i dont remember this as a child.  i do remember toffee apples and burning the guy fawkes for bonfire night though.

the custom of trick-or-treating and the use of “jack-o’-lanterns” comes from Ireland. hundreds of years ago, Irish farmers went from house to house, begging for food, in the name of their ancient gods, to be used at the village Halloween celebration. they would promise good luck to those who gave them good, and made threats to those who refused to give. they simply told the people, “You treat me, or else I will trick you!”

Happy halloween!!

nobody really knows how halloween originated, but since the 19C , 31st october has acquired a reputation as a night on which witches, ghosts and fairies are especially active.

in the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church made 1st November a church holiday to honour all the saints. although it was a joyous holiday it was also the eve of All Souls Day, so in Medieval times it became customary to pray for the dead on this date.

another name for All Saints Day is ‘All Hallows‘ (hallow is an archaic English word for ‘saint’). the festival began on All Hallows Eve, the last night of October.

halloween comes from all hallow even, the eve(night before) All Hallows Day.  Therefore halloween is the eve of all saints day.

its always been a big tradition in america, but over the recent years, it has now become a big event for kids in england.  maude has already cut out the pumpkin to light and bought the sweets to hand out to all the little children who come round all cutely dressed up.