Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Loire - Travel With Children

Since becoming a parent the number of parent friends that I have has naturally increased. It is great to let the little ones play and it is also a great chance for us to check in and say, how do deal with naps, how did you make that snack or how to you encourage sharing. No one pretends to be an expert we are just finding our way and that is nice.  As I like to get out and about and explore Paris I naturally do the same on holiday. One of the questions I get asked most often is where do you go? Or how do you you go out all day? It is a good job that is the advice I am asked as Sebastian has not slept through the night yet and he is almost 2, so I would be no help in that department.

He is not great at sleeping through but Sebastian will sleep in the sling or the pram so that enables us to get out and about.  After three years of living in Paris we decided to become real Parisians and go south for August. As it happens we only went for 10 days and not the full month and we did not travel that far south, mainly because I refused to drive the length of the country with a baby and dog in the car. Let me share the Loire with you

The main points to remember when planning a toddler friendly holiday are these; they love to explore, they like to be out, they like to see new things, they like your attention. Taking those points into consideration means not every activity needs to be child centred. The only time Sebastian gets agitated and grumpy is if he is being ignored when he is trying to interact with us, so as long as I talk to him he is having fun.

We stayed in a tiny village in an Air BnB property, my go to site for holiday accommodation. We explored the garden and village in our pyjamas and a very good time doing so.
There were endless fields and vineyards to walk through and around, lots of new sights, sounds and smells.

Walking around Angers is certainly child friendly, lots of quiet streets to walk down and fountains the look at. The buildings are stunning and there is a castle and gardens to run around in. I particularly liked the art museum and collage.
The zoo at Doué-la-Fontaine has to be one of my all time favourite zoos. It is set in prehistoric sedimentary rock quarry and has made it's focus creating natural habitats for the animals. The setting of the rocks and the thick foliage kept it cool even on a hot day so it was pleasant to walk around and we did not have to contend with a melting grumpy toddler at midday. Each of the animals areas flowed seamlessly it really is a must see for the area.
There were quite a few species of primates but this guy really was my favourite, just look at his face!

Address: 103 Rue de Cholet, 49700 Doué-la-Fontaine
Phone: 02 41 59 18 58
The commune of Doué-la-Fontaine is also home to many restaurants two of which are in a cave. How can you possibly pass up the chance to eat in a cave we chose to eat at Le Caveau. It was filled with locals which is always a great sign. They had one set menu an evening, the evening that we went it was; baked mushrooms, flat bread (as much as we could consume), pate, pulled pork with spicy beans, baked apples and ice cream. We also had an apéritif and a bottle of wine included in the 26€ per person. They did not charge us for Sebastian as he ate small amounts of what we ate but I am sure this would depend on the age of the child, Sebastian was 18 months at the time. We were also told that if we had booked in advance they would have made a vegetarian dish, we didn't, but they were still accommodating and I had extra beans, mushrooms and a plate of goats cheese. All in all price wise we were certainly not in Paris anymore.
Le Caveau
Address: 4 Bis Place du Champ de Foire, 49700 Doué-la-Fontaine
Phone: 02 41 59 98 28
We were not far from Saumur, the place to visit wine caves in the region, let's face it you cannot have a holiday in the Loire without tasting and buying wine. Ackerman is the leading producer of sparkling wine in the area. We went on the tour of the wine caves which I highly recommend it is fascinating to hear about the history and learn the processes involved. Sebastian enjoyed running around the cave and playing the sniffing game at the end that was designed to help you to identify the aromas in wine, it was not actually wine you were sniffing. Afterwards we took the opportunity for free wine dégustation. Sebastian was very interested by this but mostly involved himself with the colouring that was provided and he also found the balloons to be a huge hit.
Address: 19 Rue Léopold Palustre, 49412 Saumur
Phone: 02 41 53 03 10
In Saumur itself there are lovely buildings to explore in the town and a Chateau on a hill. I recommend a walk along the river and an ice cream.
If ever a place was under sold in a leaflet it is Parc Oriental de Maulevrier. When we saw the leaflet in the place we were staying we had it as a fall back activity but we were so glad we went and spent virtually a whole day there. It is the largest Japanese garden in France, it was originally designed by Alexander Marcel, a leading French architect at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. We all had an amazing time exploring the garden, looking at coy and drinking tea. If you have a child that does not need to go to bed or a baby that can sleep in the sling you can visit the garden at night whilst it is all lit up.
Parc Oriental de Maulevrier
Address: Route de Mauléon, 49360 Maulevrier

If you are traveling somewhere warm with little ones it is good to have activities that are out of the heat and the sun. The wine caves were brilliant for that so we decided to stick wit the cave theme and I little way down from Ackerman we visited the mushroom caves or musée du champignon.
The mushrooms were so beautiful to look at and it was surprisingly interesting to learn about the processes involved. Sebastian went wild in the caves and running around does not cover it! He was so excited and pointing at strange shaped mushrooms  and posters and talking semi-coherently was his thing, and it was very cute to watch.
When in doubt get a parent to do something silly and your toddler will be more than entertained, I love that Sebastian is such an easy audience right now, long may that last.
Musée du Champignon
Address: Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, Route de Gennes, 49400 Saumur
Phone: 02 41 50 31 55  

All in all The Loire valley can serve the needs of an entire family without your little one being neglected. It was such a wonderful part of France and we will certainly go back and visit the other side of the valley that is closer to the coast.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

How To Design A Garden

During my life I have had all manner of outside space from tiny dark courtyards to long thin gardens and sometimes none at all. As you can guess from my blog I put a lot of care and attention into how I design my home. The flow of the rooms, the colours, the mood, how we function in it as a family, and I love the planning process. Then I would get to the garden/outside space and for some reason would throw plants in there in a whimsical fashion, as they caught my eye or if they were on offer in the garden centre. I would panic buy a patio table because I had arranged a BBQ or the summer had just begun. I would dump things in the garden as a storage facility. All in all I did not take care of my space. The silly thing is I would spend so much time tending it and trying to enjoy it but because I had not done any planning my efforts were fruitless, and the garden became a waste and not the wonderful space I desired. This time things will be different and I will share my planning process with you.
1. Consider It A Room - I think this was my main problem, if I had considered it a room I would have used the same detailed planning process as the inside of my home. So with that in mind before you even look at plants or tables get a pen and paper out and write a list of how you want to use the space. Do you want to entertain in it? If so what sort of entertaining? BBQ, Sit down meals? Outdoor cinema? Is it a place you can sit and read in? Do you want a play area for little ones? Do you want chickens? Do you want to use it all year round? You may even find yourself imagining coming home from work and drinking a glass of wine on the patio. Once you have established how you want to use the "room" you can move on to the second stage of planning.

2. Accept limitations - If you have a small courtyard you can't have a pool but you can have a small water feature. If you live in a climate that gets cold winters you have to find hardy plants. If you have children and pets you should choose safe plants and avoid thorns. You have to accept limitations but don't view them as limiting. You can do wonders with a balcony and make an arid space appear green and inviting.
3. Study Up - When you look at your list of how you want to use the space it will more than likely inform you of the plants you want. Garden centres are tempting places so it is easy to buy things that do not suit your space or your needs and you can end up wasting huge amounts of cash without proper planning. Ask yourself a few questions; how much time to you want to spend tending plants, how much space do you have, how much light do you have, what is your soil like, how cold/hot does it get? There is no point in buying plants that need too much care and time than you are willing to or able to give. Nor should you buy a plant that is going to out grow your space. It is easy to find the information you need online. The research is fun to do and don't panic the beauty of nature is there is a plant for every type of space.
4. Make The Space Work For You - When you move into your home there is normally some sort of garden already in place. You don't have to keep the plants or the layout that is already there. Just because the lawn runs the length of the garden it doesn't have to. Just because the patio is in a certain location you can still move it. Walk around the space and think how it will look from different angles. Will your plans work if you stand at the bottom of the garden and look at the house?

5. Let Go Of Guilt - It is okay to dig up unwanted plants. Yes I said it, it is not wasteful you can compost what you don't want. Gift bunches of flowers to people before you dig them up. And if you remove a tree you will have a woodshed full of craft materials and fuel for the stove like I do. It is no worse than stripping wallpaper you don't like or re-placing a carpet and we do that all the time so don't feel guilty make the space your own.
6. Think About Colour - We look at endless paint samples when we plan our room but often overlook colour stories for the garden. Remember that you can add colour in more ways than just plants. Adding permanent colour features in a garden is a great way of keeping it bright though the winter months if you are lacking in evergreens.

I have really enjoyed making mood boards for the garden and filling notebooks with plant research and the excitement has now extended to the heavy grunt work of clearing and shifting that will come first as I know what the end goal is and can look forward to it.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Fried Potato & Chorizo - Recipe

warm potato salad recipe
As the nights draw in comfort food is high on everyone's agenda and this dish is great as a warm winter salad or a side dish. There is the old saying, "you don't win friends with salad". Well I think this depends on the salad. This was my little boy's chorizo. He has developed a real Mediterranean pallet, olives and capers are high on his list of go to foods, he certainly is a strange and wonderful baby.

As you can see the potatoes are cut up into tiny cubes so it cooks faster than most potato dishes, good news for your tummy!
chorizo and potato recipe
recipe chorizo and potato side dish
you will need;

3-4 good sized white potatoes
6 inches of chorizo 
1tbsp capers
2tbsp olive oil 
2tsp dried marjoram 
salt and pepper

  1. Peel your potatoes and cut them up into tiny cubes as shown in the pictures. Rinse off any starch from your potatoes and set aside.
  2. Cut your chorizo to a similar size as your potatoes. Heat the oil and fry until it starts to crisp up. Remove from the pan. 
  3. Now your oil has all that chorizo flavour add the potatoes, marjoram, salt and pepper. It is helpful if you have a lid for your frying pan but it is not essential it just speeds up the cooking process.
  4. Once the potatoes are cooked and soft pop the chorizo back into the pan and add the capers. Cook for a further 3-5 minutes to heat through. Serve warm or hot.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Make Your Own Thank You Notes & Stationery - Craft

It is no secret that I love vintage and nostalgia. It is also no secret that I have fully embraced the digital age, I have made friends through blogging and social media and am quite the e mailer and tweeter but there is something special about putting pen to paper. My granny was a hoarder, really her house was filled simply filled with everything and anything you could think of. I adored the woman but even I will hold my hands up and say most of it was pointless clutter but among the clutter were some gems that gave me an insight not only to my family but a general window to the past. She showed me notes that my great grandmother had received over the years, calling cards and thank you notes. It was so nice that people would send little thank you notes after having afternoon tea at a persons house. Those lovely little polite gesture have left us but fear not I am going to bring it back.
The only way to be able to send notes to people is to have a stash of notelets in your house. Sending a handmade note will add that extra personal touch.
The two methods I used to create the note cards are a great way to use up all those little bits that are too small for most things but are too pretty to throw away, it should come as no surprise that I am a hoarder.
you will need;

blank cards and envelopes
scraps of thread
scraps of fabric
needle & thread
scraps of paper

  1. Pick out your fabric and paper scraps and play around with different combinations of colours and shapes. This could be a great opportunity to use any old drawings that you are not quite happy with.
  2. Try adding buttons to some designs or wrapping thread around paper.
  3. Stick the designs to the cards.
Now you have a pretty set of note cards so next time you go to your friends house for lunch you can send a thank you note. You could make a second set of cards to gift to a friend.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

What I Wore - Dressing Up & Down

It occurred to me that whilst I have taken many What I Wore shoots in Paris, including the majority of my Maternity Series they are not always obviously in Paris. The difficulty about taking photos in an 'obvious' Paris location is that it is filled with tourists who walk around messing up my shots, clearly evidenced in the picture below.
I am determined to try and keep my sense of self and style whilst being a mum. This can be hard as a full time working mother and on some days I find it impossible. I have tried to find new ways to feel good and be practical and in all honesty I have enjoyed the challenge of finding outfits out of my comfort zone. I have become very aware of fabrics that crush easily as I may be crawling through a tunnel at some point and will almost certainly have a small person wriggling and hugging on my lap for a vast portion of the day. Another thing I find hard now is feeling sexy, not for anyone else for myself, my own self worth. This black top was ideal as it has a crushed fabric effect already, one issue covered, and it has a low plunging back. I am a fan of my back, I rarely see it, but I know it's there and I am more than happy with how it looks. I teamed this top with a flowing jersey skirt, not the usual fitted variety I would have normally chosen. I have enjoyed finding new ways to express my style and be practical and I love that I have a tiny person in my life who makes me crawl through tunnels, climbs all over me and leaves me with a strange and somewhat permanent odour.
Outfit Details

Top - Zara 
Sandals - Birkenstock
Skirt - H&M
Necklace - Ebay
Sunglasses - Zara