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Hanami in Kent

Posted on 16/05/2013

One day I will go to Japan.

It has been a life long dream of mine and one day I will get there. When I do go it will be in the Spring to coincide with Hanami.

Hanami (花見) literally means flower viewing, it is an ancient Japanese tradition of enjoying and celebrating the beauty of flowers, primarily Cherry Blossom (Sakura). In Japan this is such an established and popular tradition that people visit from all over the world to see the blossom every year, there is even a blossom forecast (sakura-zensen) to help people plan their visit. During the day people come to picnic beneath the blossom. At night people hold parties amongst the trees which they decorate with paper lanterns, this is called night sakura (yozakura).

The ancient custom of Hanami dates back to the Nara Period (710–794) when people viewed the Plum blossom (ume) it was later in the Heian Period (794–1185) that Cherry blossom viewing became more popular and as a result is now synonymous with Hanami.

Every Spring when the blossom starts to bloom I am captivated by its delicate beauty and seeing it can transform my mood and makes my heart sing. I was absolutely delighted when I heard that Brogdale Farm in Faversham were holding their first ever Hanami event. Brodgale is home to over 300 different fruiting cherry trees and 42 ornamental cherry trees! Brogdale is a wonderful place to visit, it is home to The National Fruit Collection which is an incredible living gene bank of over 4,000 varieties of fruit trees including apples, pears, plums, cherries, cobnuts, currants and quinces. This precious resource includes rare examples and heritage varieties that cannot be found elsewhere. It is the biggest collection of fruit trees in the world!

Brogdale’s Hanami event involved a guided walking tour of the farms orchards in flower and ended with a lovely picnic lunch that we brought at the farm to eat beneath the flowering ornamental Cherry trees. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll celebrate Hanami in Japan.

For more information on Brogdale Farm events and the National Fruit Collection visit: http://www.brogdalecollections.co.uk/

My Hanami outfit: Vintage Pastel 1950′s dress with a Japanese inspired print purchased at a Vintage fair in Brighton. Vintage inspired bubblegum Pink cardigan from Cath Kidston.

 

 

 

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Eating in Italy

Posted on 24/09/2012

Today, as I watch the rain pour down outside I am remembering some of the best moments from my holiday in Italy this Summer. For me Italy is food heaven, so here are my top 5 things to eat in Lake Como & Milan.

1.) Eat Ice cream! Italy is world famous for its ice cream (gelato) and with good reason, Milan and Lake Como are both full of gelato shops, you could try a different flavour every day! Here are two of my favourite places to try:

Gelato Giustoor the right ice cream, is run by Cordon Bleu graduate Vittoria Bortolazzo. They specialize in quality ice cream made with only natural ingredients and their flavours change with the seasons, so you are always eating what tastes the best right now. In summertime they have exiting flavours like Basil or Ginger & Lime. I tried the Raspberry which was fantastic!

Cioccolati Italiani, is the perfect combination for ice cream and chocolate lovers. You choose either dark or milk liquid chocolate to go into the base of your cone and then your ice cream flavours to go on top. Their ice creams are organised into fruit based, cream based and chocolate. They have 6 different flavours of chocolate ice cream alone, in different cocoa strengths. If you fancy something different the essence of Rose ice cream is incredible!

2.) Buy beautiful Leone sweets at The Caffe Bar Sport in Bellaggio.

On a day trip to Bellaggio, we were rewarded for climbing the many steep steps up from the waterfront by discovering the Caffe Bar Sport, it was one of the highlights of our trip. This beautiful old fashioned sweetshop is filled with a myriad of sugary delights and has been run by one family since 1922. It took me ages to stop just looking at everything in sheer awe and actually decide what I wanted to buy. I was very restrained and only left with two boxes of biscotti for my husband’s workmates, which came in beautiful Flower Fairy tins which are now on display in my studio and some essence of Rose bon bons for myself.

The shelves were lined with beautiful ranges by Leone, an Italian company who I discovered have been in business since 1857 and are one of the oldest confectioners in Europe. Their packaging design is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and their sweets are even better!

These beautiful professional images are courtesy of the delightful Morena from Leone.

3.) Go out for dinner. If you’re staying in Milan try Ristorante Manna. The entire experience is amazing and every course is a work of art. Chef Matteo makes fun and exciting dishes like vegetable fruit salad with lettuce ice cream. Try the gazpacho soup, It’s the best I’ve ever had!

4.) Have a picnic by the lake and take in the view. Italian supermarkets are amazing, the cheese counter alone is an experience. Buy a selection of your favourite Italian goodies and find a quiet spot to enjoy them. We bought fresh baked foccacia, balls of Buffalo mozzarella, a handful of fresh Basil and delicious roasted pepper antipasti.

5.) Stock up on Olive Oil from Premiato Oleificio Vanni Osvaldo in Lenno. Visit this wonderful local producer is used by all the local restaurants. They have been producing olive oil in Lenno since 1850, using traditional cold-pressing methodst makes a great gift and every time you use it it will remind you of your Italian adventure.

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Lake Como: The Villa Carlotta

Posted on 29/08/2012

One of the best things I did when I went to Lake Como in July was visit the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo.  The villa was built in 1690 and was one of the main stops on The Grand Tour. It is famous for its beautiful gardens and sculptures, including a copy of Canova’s “Cupid & Psyche”, one of my favourite works of art. The villa is named after Charlotte,  Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen who was given it as a wedding gift in 1843 by her mother Princess Marianna of Prussia.

I especially loved the Japanese garden. It’s full of traditionally Japanese decorative elements, all different coloured Acer trees (Japanese Maples) and different species of bamboo. One day I love to make a corner of my garden like this. Its such a quiet and meditative place to come and sit and just enjoy the beauty of the trees. It made me want to visit the real gardens in Japan that inspired it even more.

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