Monday 25 May 2015

Spritz & Snacks: Inspired by Venice

aperol spritz and virgin spritz by Alexis

One thing that we brought back with us from our trip to Paris and Venice was a spritz & snack habit.

Cantina del Mori - cicheti in Venice -

In planning for Venice we used the Polpo cookbook as a culinary guidebook and once we were there we sought out quite a few bars that are recommended in the back of the book. Most evenings - and some lunchtimes too - we'd stop in a bar, often the kind that you might otherwise pass without looking twice, order a spritz (or glass of wine if it was the second bar of the day) and choose some snacks from the bar.

Cantina del Mori - cicheti in Venice -
Cicheti near the Rialto Market at Cantina del Mori

Cicheti, as they are known in Venice, snacks to our children, are most often made from really simple ingredients in bars where kitchen space is limited or nonexistent. Mostly they are mouth sized bites, quite tapas like, with a cocktail stick in for easy serving from the counter. We'd choose a couple that took our fancy and let the children choose theirs too and then sit or stand in the evening sunshine pondering the day... or what we were going to do for dinner (always easier when when you're not completely starving).

Canalside cicheti in Venice -
Canalside spritz and cicheti - food tourists!

This was on our last evening where we had a mini bar crawl along a canal opposite a gondola workshop - and some of the best cicheti of the trip.

Making an aperol spritz -

So back in our kitchen at home this is becoming a typical Friday night scene. An aperol or campari spritz for adults and a virgin spritz for the small people.
We make ours with two parts aperol, three parts prosseco and a splash of soda water. Ice, a slice of lemon and a green olive are also compulsorily.
The children's versions are made with some still lemonade, soda water and some blood orange San Pellegrino - mainly for the colour, although they do taste good. Coco and Henry love olives but for other children we've added grapes on a cocktail stick instead.

Coco having a virgin spritz -

cicheti needs fresh seasonal ingredients!

For the snack it's meant to be all about what's local and seasonal - so radishes from the garden (I know - so right on... please take this with a bucket full of salt)!

An english take on cicheti -

Homemade cicheti -

We've had a good variety of bits and bobs so far, it really is anything goes. Sometimes we just take things out of the fridge and lay them out so we can create our own combinations

Hugh says a max of two ingredients per item... Coco and Henry often dream up their own and make us try them, turns the tables a bit!

An english take on cicheti -

An English take on cicheti with glutney chutney, chedder and cucumber. If you're lucky you might even get table service!

Friday 22 May 2015

Snail Mail #2: A Month of Letters

on my desk - letter writing by alexis at

One of the side effects of having been to boarding school is that letters are inherently exciting. News from the outside!
We used to collect our post at morning break time, we'd all go to the dinning room for a drink and biscuit (still love a custard cream) and the post would be laid out on tables for you to collect. Oh the boxes of letters I have... and books of them too - I bound old envelopes into books at college. I developed some strong and lasting friendships via letters back in my teens. They'll keep me entertained in my old age for sure. Yes, I definitely have a thing for letters, especially letters in brown envelopes (I blame a prolific letter writing boy for that one).
At risk of sounding like Julie Andrews can you imagine how happy I was about a brown envelope arriving with that feather in from Lou and Cathy? My new tribe (and I'm basically talking about all the people I follow on blogs and instagram here...) really know how to do post.
Anyway I digress...

on my desk - letter writing with tea and irises by alexis at

After signing Coco and Henry up to the little letters project (back in Feb!) I decided I also wanted in on the letter writing. 

So in February I tried to write a letter a day - I didn't get that far, but I wrote a lot more than I've written in a long time. I sent some long over due thank-you notes and a moving card (also over due) plus I started to action a plan I've had for a while of sending people photos - good ones that they might have forgotten were taken.
The idea was sparked by seeing my instagram friend @ridasj using the hashtag #ourmonthofletters - her project was slightly different in that she spent the month communicating with one friend purely by letter... something I'd love to have a go at some time.

I'm slowly continuing down my long list of people to write to - writing daily was a bit too much - but a couple of letters, or realistically; one letter, a week is doable.

Alice in Wonderland stamps

Plus this project is a good excuse to indulge in buying picture stamps. Not that I really need an excuse...

A pressed flower card

And occasionally a way to share some pressed flowers too.
Sending is definitely as good as receiving. My next aim is to get people birthday cards on time - I need to get organised and do something like this that Heather posted about a while ago.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Paris and Venice with Children: Part 1

Over the Easter break we embarked on the kind of holiday we haven't done with children before; the (slightly extended) city break. We traveled overland to Venice - first by Eurostar to Paris and then after four nights in Paris by the overnight Thello train from Paris to Venice.
Overall the holiday was great - probably better in retrospect in some parts (as I think things involving children sometimes are...). But I think Coco and Henry had a pretty good time and it was lovely to get almost a full two weeks together just the four of us.

I thought I'd just do an overview of the holiday and what worked for us. I've optimistically called this post 'part 1' as I intend to gradually go through what we did (but my blog is getting a little neglected at the moment so that might not happen)!

We didn't try to cram in lots of activities, in fact we hardly did any 'culture'. Almost as soon as we got to Paris we decided not to charge around trying to do a million things but instead to make sure we just go there more often... it is so easy!

Setting off from home on a Monday morning  - we left early enough to be in Paris for lunch. The major drama of the trip happened as soon as we were in the queue for security at St Pancras and Coco realised she'd left Teddy at home. There were lots of tears and she missed her throughout the trip too, "Teddy was so looking forward to seeing the Eiffel tower" etc etc.

On our first day we checked into our perfectly located airbnb apartment and then headed out for a bite to eat. We ended up in the not so French Frenchie, a kind of French/American deli, but it was delicious, hit the spot perfectly and fueled us for an afternoon of wandering.

Rue Montorgueil - right near our apartment, perfect for food shopping and people watching. 

We walked through the courtyard of the Louve... Coco was intrigued by all the people taking just these kind of photos so we jumped on the band wagon and had a go too.
I was intrigued by the sheer number of selfie sticks we saw. Slightly unreal.

We made our way through The Tuileries Garden where the children spent a good hour in the playground while we sat with take away tea perusing our guide book and admiring all the immaculately dressed French children.

Eventually we coaxed the children away with the promise of a carousel ride...

More wandering... Paris was starting to bloom, we didn't really get the best weather, it still looked pretty stunning.

Then we shopped for supper, taking home a medley of gorgeous quiche, salad, cheese and bread (not actually a supper of sweets as Coco and Henry would have liked).

After a busy day of travelling and walking and a nice bottle of French wine for me and Hugh we all slept very soundly ready for the next day of our adventure...

Friday 15 May 2015

Purple & Blue in the Garden

Like last month I wanted to make a quick record of what is out in our garden - and have another got at some modern calligraphy. 
It's all about purple and blue at the moment... the orange tulips and daffs are all but gone. The bearded iris are blooming, there are enough buds coming that I didn't feel too bad about bringing one stem in for a vase. These iris' were transplanted from my parents garden and have expanded so that now that have a quite a patch.
The alliums are almost at their best, the salvia just coming into flower along with the nepeta (which always reminds me what a great backdrop it made when I hosted the nursery photo course a couple of years ago... )

So it's been busy in the garden and busy with me too. Hence the lack of blogging... I'm hoping to get a chance to catch up - but I think I'm always chasing that dream!

Cotton Twist (my new business venture) is taking up lots of time at the moment - which is mostly a good thing. Orders from our website are starting to pop up - some from readers here which makes me very happy so THANK YOU - you know who you are! We've also just launched a storefront on Not On The High Street and I've broken my longtime aversion to Facebook and we have a Cotton Twist page there so please come and show us some love if you feel inclined!

I'll be back soon - I promise. In the meantime, happy Friday everyone! Have a great weekend.