Tag Archives: country

Poppies & Lavender

England is officially in bloom! And what a gorgeous weekend for putting the top down and cruising the back roads – taking in the sights and smells of summer blossoms.

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We passed this field of poppies – too beautiful not to stop. These red poppies are the English remembrance flower – used since 1920 to commemorate soldiers who have died in battle. So although the poppies are strikingly pretty, they also evoke a tiny pang of sorrow.

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Cotswold Lavender in Snowshill produces some of the finest lavender products in the country. With the fields in peak flower, it was an opportune time to stop in and stroll through the brilliantly colored meadows.

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Lavender has such a calming effect on me, and the gift shop sells little sachets of dried lavender for £1.99 to take home! They also produce lavender oils, body creams, and even a slumber gel to rub on your temples before bed for a good night’s sleep.

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Feeling blissed out, with our clothes and hair lavender-scented, we stopped at the Norman Knight pub to beat the summer heat with a cool drink. A shaded picnic table awaited us in the garden, where we plucked little sprigs of lavender – the perfect hat accessory!

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Norman Knight

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On the way home, we picked up groceries for lunch – including a few savory treats from The Cotswold Cheese Company in Moreton in Marsh.

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We enjoyed the rest of the evening’s dwindling sun on the lawn with a glass of wine – playing a few games of giant pick-up sticks.

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As a wise man once told me – when the sun smiles on England, it’s the greatest place in the world.

Ballymaloe House

I’ve never been very curious about my genealogy. When someone asks my nationality, I’m blunt – “American.” Then I moved to the UK, where people can trace their ancestry back through direct descendants to Roman times. Over the holidays, I was invited to Christmas drinks at a country house built in the 1740’s and I jokingly remarked to the host “You have such a lovely historic home – it’s older than my country!” It was then I  resolved to explore my roots a little bit more. As there is Irish heritage on my paternal side of the family tree, I put a visit to the Emerald Isle on my list.

This weekend I took the one hour flight over to County Cork to traipse through the Irish countryside where, generations ago, my ancestors might have roved. Something about the landscape is strangely familiar – the rolling hills, the scent of the sea, the modest main streets. But there’s a certain romance here – a cheeky Irish charm. And you couldn’t help but feel it at Ballymaloe House in rural East Cork.

The ivy-fronted 17th century country house built on Norman ruins is run by the Allen family and listed in Ireland’s Blue Book of historic hotels.

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Prunes & Apricots | Strawberry Muesli | Porridge from Macroom Stoneground Oats

Prunes & Apricots | Strawberry Muesli | Porridge from Macroom Stoneground Oats

Warm Homemade Breads | Rhubarb Ginger Jam & Blackcurrant Jam

Warm Homemade Breads | Rhubarb Ginger Jam & Blackcurrant Jam

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The house is set within 400 acres of grounds – so after breakfast, we grabbed a map and went exploring. We toured the walled garden where the restaurant grows its fresh produce, the algae-tinted ponds in the woods behind the house, and the vast golden-tipped wheat fields that lolled on as far as the eye could see, their feathery fronds bending in the breeze. The scenes reminded me of summers spent scouting through the forests and cornfields of my childhood.

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After a bit of horsing around, we made it back to the house as lunch was being served. The Allen family are known throughout Ireland for their cooking; they have a Cookery School on the premises where you can book classes or just come for one of their daily demonstrations. The first and second course was buffet style – including a carvery with 3 different roasts (pork, lamb and corned beef). Afterwards, the dessert trolley is rolled tableside – but choosing one is the tricky bit!

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Calamari | Fish Pie | Stuffed Mussels | Garden Greens

Calamari | Fish Pie | Stuffed Mussels | Garden Greens

Roast Corned Beef | Red Cabbage

Roast Corned Beef | Red Cabbage

Gooseberry Pie | Chocolate Mousse Cake | Strawberry Pavlova

Gooseberry Pie | Chocolate Mousse Cake | Strawberry Pavlova

Balls of homemade vanilla ice cream

Balls of homemade vanilla ice cream

After a dip in the pool, I’ll claim a little spot for my towel in the grass, read my Kindle and snooze off lunch.

I am really dig the Irish lifestyle already and it’s only day one…

Cotswolds Comforts

Spring has been categorically lousy this year, but with high hopes for summer just a few days away it was time for a visit to my favorite Cotswolds nursery to stock up on flora and fauna to beautify my terrace.

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But first thing’s first – a piping hot cup of java from my dear Jaffé & Neale bookshop and cafe in Chipping Norton (or Chippy, as us locals call it). I could browse the shelves in here endlessly! There is always a recommended title or two that beg to be added to my reading list – and I make a point to follow their monthly bookclub picks.

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Stopped to pick up some breakfast supplies at Hampers Food & Wine Co in Woodstock. The deli is to die for. If you ever fancy a picnic in Oxfordshire, they make gourmet hampers for collection. Just order online and pick up when you hit town!

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Cool vintage Morris Minor - love the wicker hamper on the back!

Cool vintage Morris Minor – love the wicker hamper on the back!

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My country breakfast staples

My country breakfast staples

Fresh bread from Wyatt's farm shop

Fresh bread from Wyatt’s farm shop

Wyatt’s Plant Centre & Farm Shop in Chippy is your one-stop shop for all your gardening needs – and you can tick a few things off your grocery list while you’re at it. Every time I go here, I’m like a kid in a farm shop – I had to grab a doughy ball of this freshly baked bread to whisk back to London with me.

And now for flower hour!

And now for flower hour!

Discerning eye for inspiration

Discerning eye for inspiration

Honing my hanging basket arrangement skills

Miss Greenthumb (I hope!)

After carefully honing my hanging basket arrangement skills, I’m well on my way toward domestic goddess status! Just need to remember to water them occasionally, right?