Cambric tea and turkish delight- food in children’s literature.

Books we love as children can date and grow out of kilter with our modern mores and beliefs – we still enjoy them, albeit with a more knowing heart and mind. We haven’t checked the Law of Books as to what delineates a classic as of late but these are some of our candidates- both niche and mainstream, for kids which feature fulsome or whimsical descriptions of food in their pages. Some are based around food and others use it to enhance the narrative or as a theme or metaphor but they are all compelling and have stood the test of time, ready to be rediscovered by each new generation of children.

59f7d01d04e9fb498ed5a844d3b27458
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

The moral of this story is “Be careful what you wish for.” Frances loves bread and jam so much she wants to eat it every day. Frances is a fussy eater too. She won’t touch her squishy soft-boiled egg. She trades away her chicken salad sandwich at lunch. She turns up her nose at boring veal cutlets. Unless Mother can come up with a plan, Frances just might go on eating bread and jam forever! Mum Badger in her infinite parental wisdom knows the best way to deal with this is to let Frances learn that some things are made less special by over familiarity. Adventures with food and fussy eating is addressed with a light non moralising hand as Frances learns to try new things to eat and more importantly, works this out for herself. Richly descriptive in word and illustration, Hoban creates a prose masterpiece about a childhood life experience.

ee0ce295786d1fc2daebf21eabc1d69f
Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss

“Not in a box. 
Not with a fox. 
Not in a house. 
Not with a mouse. 
I would not eat them here or there. 
I would not eat them anywhere. 
I would not eat green eggs and ham. 
I do not like them, Sam-I-am”

(From Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss)

Do you like green eggs and ham?” asks Sam-I-am  and Sam keeps asking persistently (like very young child we have ever met). With distinctive characters and unmistakable rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved books have earned a place in the cannon of children’s classics. Growing cumulatively longer and longer, the list of places to enjoy green eggs and ham, and friends to enjoy them with, grows. Follow Sam-I-am as he insists that this unusual treat is indeed a delectable snack to be savored everywhere and in every way then cook Nigella’s famous riff on the meal- Green Eggs and Ham.

“The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.”

 This description of Turkish Delight by CS Lewis in the ‘Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is the one that tantalised, confused and ultimately disappointed me the most when I finally got to try it for myself. Bouncy, jellified and perfumed, the texture and taste of Turkish Delight was so far removed from the candy of my imagination that to this day I wonder if CS Lewis actually muddled it with some other, lovelier candy. The magical description allied itself with a magical world during my childhood- a time when I so very desperately needed to be taken out of my own unloving and bleak home and my disappointment after trying Turkish Delight for the first time was bitter indeed.

How to make Turkish Delight

newimg-CloudyWithAChance_Inside
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi & Ron Barratt

Once upon a time there was a town called Chewandswallow, devoid of grocery stores. Food is provided by the weather and comes three times a day. It snows mashed potatoes, has split pea soup fog, and rains orange juice. It begins to storm and flood making the food become giant. This forces residents to build boats made out of bread and sail away in search of a safer place. Imagine super sized donuts rolling down the streets and wondering if a pancake could really be bigger than a house? It’s a great story that opens up questions about the weather and how fun the imagination can be, facilitating mind bending feats of creative thought. Read this with your children, get them drawing their own imaginary foods then click here for some surreal Cloudy inspired recipes to make with them.

Matron: “You are suffering from Midnight Feast Illness! Aha! You needn’t pretend to me! If you will feast on pork-pies and sardines, chocolate and ginger-beer in the middle of the night, you can expect a dose of medicine from me the next day.” (From the Malory Towers series of books)

download (3)

 

One of my very favourite things to read as a child was any of the Enid Blyton boarding school tales from the cliff top Malory Towers to the less striking St Claires, attended by the O’Sullivan twins. Despite being set around the time that war would have resulted in serious privation, we are kept insulated from the vagaries of this and other historical event- indeed Clive of India was one of the only historical figures I recall being mentioned (as the groan-worthy subject of revision). Despite the broadest of plot and character brushstrokes, I still read them as an adult. As Jane Brocket writes in ‘Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer’, a Proustian revisiting of the world of food in children’s literature with its recreations of famous meals and recipes, Blyton is especially gifted at depicting amazing scenes of food. Consider that these books were written during a time of rationing, surely Blyton must have been gripped by the throes of wish fulfilment as she wrote? Either that or she had great contacts in the world of black-market foodstuffs.

Think of the writing skill it takes to make sardines pressed into slices of ginger cake sound tempting. That is what some of the girls ate during one midnight feast, as they sat by a cliff-top swimming pool carved from Cornish cliffs wearing tennis shoes and sturdy utilitarian flannel and wool dressing gowns. Then there were the unctuous sounding match tea ‘Jammy Buns’ to celebrate their Malory Towers fifth form Lacrosse win. So much more desirable than their Greggs equivalent! We read the account of the midnight feast in a St Clare music room where Isobel and Pat fry mini-sausages on a purloined camping stove and rail against the sneakiness of Erica who subsequently ratted then out to their schoolmistress. To this day I can smell those sausages…and I don’t even like them. Even the description of Elizabeth’s peppermint creams in ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the School’ books made me long to try what are actually pretty average tasting candies.

In fact this love of celebrating the food in children’s books from an adult perspective leads me onto my next book discovery, the ‘Little House Cookbook’ by Barbara Mi Walker who discovered the “Little House” series when her daughter, Anna, was four. Eight further years of intermittent reading, writing, and testing produced The Little House Cookbook, a lovingly detailed exploration of just about every foodstuff mentioned in the entire series, including the appetites of the seemingly gluttonous Almanzo- Laura’s future husband.

Garth-Williams

 The authors bibliography is four and a half pages long and in each chapter, she locates recipes within their historical context and explains every ingredient. Did you know that at in Laura Ingalls’s day, the tomatoes available were not sweet in the manner that they are now?  There were no chemical raising agents (egg whites would be stiffly beaten and ipes to the modern day kitchen.

Take the recipe for Stewed Jack rabbit with Dumplings, “If you can’t find a hunter to give you a skinned rabbit (he will want the pelt), look for a farm-raised rabbit at a German butcher shop. (Hasenpfeffer is a favorite German dish).” There is the Mittel European influence upon American migrant cooking right there.

Horehound candy, vinegar pie, parched corn and Johnny Cakes; fried apples ‘n onions, (the favourite birthday treat of Almanzo); green tomatoes or pumpkins were used for pie when apples were not available. They ate Vanity cakes at a Plum Creek birthday, the cakes’ puffed up emptiness serving as analogy for the hated Nellie Olsen  and savoured salt-pork melting into pans of baked beans: even the loaves made from wheat hand-ground in a little coffee grinder during the blizzard racked Long Winter are researched and written about. I was obsessed with trying Wintergreen Berries, something that Almanzo (again!) and his sister Alice went ‘pawing for’ on the snow-frozen slopes of New York State where their father had a prosperous farm. The description of crunchy berries gushing aromatic icy juices into their mouths was more than I could bear. The fact that I live in an area with chalky alkaline soil, ill suited to growing the plant that bears these berries, Gaultheria procumbens is a further torture.

I have never drunk tea and detest milk but I got my grandmother to make me a Cambric tea just like little Grace drank- basically hot water flavoured with milk and a smidgeon of tea, so comforting during the cold and a hint of just how poor the family often were. I basically spent my childhood pretending to be Laura and named my first born after her too. “At noon Ma sliced bread and filled bowls with the hot bean broth and they all ate where they were, close to the stove. They all drank cups of strong, hot tea. Ma even gave Grace a cup of cambric tea. Cambric tea was hot water and milk, with only a taste of tea in it, but little girls felt grown-up when their mothers let them drink cambric tea”. (The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

6a00e54efdf1128833016762ac82de970b

Another fantasy figure from my childhood (I begged for a hay filled mattress that would smell clean and sweet), Heidi lived the kind of simple life that even as a young child, I recognised as something of an unattainable fantasy. The contrast between this unctuous piece of cheese on toast and the hard rolls with the knot on top served at the formal dinners in Clara’s frigid and cold city home was painful to me. The author, Johanna Spyri was actually a resident of Zürich and thought of the story of the simple Alpine girl while she was convalescing from an illness in the Grisons, which is in the eastern part of the country and a biographical parallel with Clara’s illness:

 “Meanwhile the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire, turning it round and round till it was toasted a nice golden yellow color on each side … the old man filled her bowl again to the brim and set it before the child, who was now hungrily beginning her bread having first spread it with the cheese, which after being toasted was soft as butter” (from ‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri)

Finding out what type of cheese this was turned out to be no easy task when you consider that goats cheese was actually not eaten that often in Switzerland then, even though Uncle Alp was a goat farmer who made cheese from his own animals. Cheese toasting over a fire was not restricted to people living in huts on the side of an Alpine mountain though; this method using toasting forks was also written about by Enid Blyton and by Robert Louis Stevenson in ‘Treasure Island’ but none comes close to Spyri’s description. It is THE uber cheese on toast but unlike Proust I have yet to rediscover my Heidi Temps Perdu. I Still don’t know what type of cheese it was although Raclette is the likeliest candidate, being an excellent melting cheese.

9781625581105_p0_v1_s260x420

As a young girl I read and re-read Susan Coolidge’s ‘What Katy Did’ series of books and was intrigued by the bottle of shrub they took to drink on one of their rainy day picnics in the loft at the very start of the book. Although Cece later admitted that the ‘Shrub’ was little more than vinegar and water, I was determined to both try it and enjoy it <shudder> and took a glass of what we had, Sarsons, mixed with tap water down to the orchard at the bottom of my grandparents garden and tentatively forced myself to drink it. Illusions firmly shattered and deciding that American vinegar was clearly superior to ours (or they had the stomach and constitution of goats) I shelved any ideas about this becoming my new go to summer refreshment.
 Until the latest post from the Bojon Gourmet landed in my in box that is. One of my favourite food writing bloggers from San Francisco, her Shrub recipe has about as much in common with my (and Cece’s) version as the saintly and slightly sanctimonious Cousin Helen from the books had with Mae West. Lavender, Kumquat, honey and apple cider vinegar all add a mellifluous depth that cancels out any tendency towards the tongue-sucking rasp of vinegar. The colour is amazing, the floral and citrus sophisticated enough for parties. Go on, try it. Even Katie would have been made good by this drink and would thus have avoided the back injury this, in part, morality tale visited upon her to show us what happens to naughty girls.

The ‘What Katy Did’ series are liberally scattered with references to food and to the occasions surrounding it. Here is the picnic in their version of Paradise where they built a rose bower to eat under;

“Katy, who sat in the middle, untied and lifted the lid of the largest basket, while all the rest peeped eagerly to see what was inside.First came a great many ginger cakes. These were carefully laid on the grass to keep till wanted; buttered biscuit came next – three a piece, with slices of cold lamb laid in between; and last of all were a dozen hard-boiled eggs, and a layer of thick bread and butter sandwiched with corned-beef. Aunt Izzie had put up lunches for Paradise before, you see, and knew pretty well what to expect in the way of appetite.Oh, how good everything tasted in that bower, with the fresh wind rustling the poplar leaves, sunshine and sweet wood-smells about them, and birds singing overhead! No grown-up dinner party ever had half so much fun. Each mouthful was a pleasure; and when the last crumb had vanished, Katy produced the second basket, and there, oh, delightful surprise! were seven little pies – molasses pies, baked in saucers – each with a brown top and crisp, candified edge, which tasted like toffy and lemon-peel, and all sorts of good things mixed up together”

And who recalls Debbie’s Jumbles sent in the boarding school Christmas hamper to end all hampers? I found the books faintly torturous; even the ‘thick pale slices of pudding with a thin sugary sauce’ served by the new headteacher on one of her weird food fad regimes for school lunch tempted me. What on earth was this pudding?

Katy’s trip to Europe with its ill fated expeditions to various locations associated with her favourite novels had her gravely disillusioned with our food, showing particular distaste for some disagreeable flannel blanket-textured muffins, which she described as ‘scorched and tough’. Little pan fried fish reminiscent of what she called ‘Scup’, commonly known now as ‘Porgy’ with its fine light flavour, and a light gooseberry preserve both met with her approval in what she called ‘Storybook England’.
9781557092922_p0_v1_s260x420

 

An old, little known book, ‘Girl of the Limberlost’ by Gene Stratton Porter, is a story of a girl of the mid western woods; a buoyant, loveable self-reliant American with a philosophy of love and kindness towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. The story and romance of Elnora growing up in the wetlands of northern Indiana is also a cautionary tale for ecology-lovers.

 Gene Stratton-Porter paints a picture of coming industry destroying nature and those who try to save what can be saved for future generations. My sigh of relief when Elenora’s mother turned her life around and started acting like a good mother as opposed to her original not so good one, was immense and of course that meant that food = love with glorious descriptions of the goodies placed in Elnora’s lunchbox- spice cookies, raisin turtles, candied pears, popcorn balls, haws, doughnuts, and hazelnuts to share with friends or feast on alone.

Turtles brand candy were developed by Johnson’s Candy Company (which became DeMet’s Candy Company in 1923) in 1918, after a salesman came into the commissary’s dipping room and showed a candy to one of the dippers, who pointed out that the candy looked like a turtle. Soon after, Johnson’s Candy Company was making the same kind of candy and selling it under the name “Turtles.” Commonly made in the American South, they are now a classic of the candymaker- as a child without the internet to do my research, my mind ran in ignorant riot over their name. You can imagine what I thought they were made from.

a_tree_grows__in_brooklyn

Less a children’s book and more of a book that I read as a child, ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn‘ by Betty Smith beat Jamie Oliver to the post regarding the mythologizing of Cuisina Povera with its delicious description of mother figure Katie Nolan’s pitiful attempts to make a bone with scraps of meat on it, an onion and some stale bread into what she called Frikadellen.

Frying scraps of stale bread, sending the children to cajole that bone from a butcher who would give them the one with the most meat attached (in exchange for a ‘pinch on their cheeks’), making nothing stretch to something because of her marriage to a charming yet feckless Irish singing waiter, Katie is a true heroine. Jack Monroe and her campaign against food poverty with a blog offering inexpensive ways to feed a family, comes to mind when I read this book and as an adult, fully cognizant of the hardships faced by many families, it makes me weep. Read this and see what I am referring to:

“The Nolans practically lived on that stale bread and what amazing things Katie could make from it! She’d take a loaf of stale bread, pour boiling water over it, work it up into a paste, flavor it with salt, pepper, thyme, minced onion and an egg (if eggs were cheap), and bake it in the oven. When it was good and brown, she made a sauce from half a cup of ketchup, two cups of boiling water, seasoning, a dash of strong coffee, thickened it with flour and poured it over the baked stuff. It was good, hot, tasty and staying. What was left over was sliced thin the next day and fried in hot bacon fat.

 “Mama made a very fine bread pudding from slices of stale bread, sugar, cinnamon and a penny apple sliced thin. When this was baked brown, sugar was melted and poured over the top. Sometimes she made what she had named Weg Geschnissen, which laboriously translated meant something made with bread bits that usually would be thrown away. Bits of bread were dipped into a batter made from flour, water, salt and an egg and then fried in deep hot fat. While they were frying, Francie ran down to the candy store and bought a penny’s worth of brown rock candy. This was crushed with a rolling pin and sprinkled on top of the fried bits just before eating. The crystals didn’t quite melt and that made it wonderful.
 “Saturday supper was a red letter meal. The Nolans had fried meat! A loaf of stale bread was made into pulp with hot water and mixed with a dime’s worth of chopped meat into which an onion had been cleavered. Salt and a penny’s worth of minced parsley were added for flavor. This was made up into little balls, fried and served with hot ketchup. These meat balls had a name, fricadellen, which was a great joke with Francie and Neeley.

They lived mostly on these things made from stale bread, and condensed milk and coffee, onions, potatoes, and always the penny’s worth of something bought at the last minute, added for fillip”

picture-101dalmatians-smith

The most memorable banquets aren’t necessarily the most palatable or convivial: take the very adult Oscar Wildes black banquet in ‘Portrait of Dorian Gray’ with charcoal pathways, basalt-edged ponds and baskets of purple-black violets adorning the black-clothed table. Feasting on dark olives and Russian rye bread, slices of black puddings turgid with clotted blood shipped over from Frankfurt and wild game served in puddles of liquorice-dark sauces, the guests wore black and ate off black-edged flatware whilst mourning the passing of the protagonist’s sexual potency. Not one for children although the pepper laden meal that Cruella De Vil invites the dogs owners the Dearlys. to is just as forboding and sinister. Taking place in a Dalmatian-inspired room with its black marble walls and white marble table, reminiscent of a sarcophagus or grand tomb, Dodie Smith tells us:

‘The soup was dark purple. And what did it taste of?

Pepper! The fish was bright green. And what did it taste of? Pepper! The meat was pale blue. And what did that taste of? Pepper! Everything tasted of pepper, even the ice cream – which was black. (The Hundred and One Dalmatians)

The meal become entrenched in our minds eye in a far more potent manner as it takes the staff of life- food, and marries it with death in that tomb -like room.

 

 

“Without To Kill a Mockingbird, my life would not be as rich.”- Director Timothy Sheader on one of his favourite books…

 

 main

Director Timothy Sheader on the ‘flash mob reading’ of a classic

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

To Kill A Mockingbird features high in the list of many a book lover’s top ten, as evidenced by the recent furore triggered by the erroneous rumour it might be removed from the school syllabus.

Artistic director of London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre,  Timothy Sheader, who brings this best loved classic to the Norwich Theatre Royal stage from September 22-27, has returned to author Harper Lee’s book to cast fresh light on the endearing humanity held in its pages.

Essentially, he says, his production is different because “we are not putting the play on stage, we are putting the book on stage. We revisited the book in a new and original way. It is all about Harper Lee’s words.”

His interpretation enjoyed a highly successful and critically-acclaimed run during 2013 in Regent’s Park, and a return to the park venue is planned for late August into September before embarking on a UK tour with Norwich its second port of call.

Casting for the tour will be announced in due course and further dates for 2015 are on the cards.

Adapted from the novel for the stage by Christopher Sergel, this memorable production scooped the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Play Revival for 2013, with Telegraph reviewer Charles Spencer declaring it to be “a production of tremendous heart and emotional depth”. “If you have tears, prepare to shed them at this superb adaptation of Harper Lee’s great book,” he said.

Winning plaudits from critics and audiences alike, it is the Open Air Theatre’s most successful play and was Critic’s Choice in the Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Times, Guardian, Metro and Time Out with reviewers calling it “heart-shakingly sincere” and an “enchanting heartfelt adaptation”.

As Timothy said, it was “a no-brainer” to bring the production out on tour to reach a wider audience: “It’s not because of ego, but the desire for more people to experience Harper Lee’s novel. The novel is the central experience and the actors carry that experience to the audience.

“They read from the book on stage in their own accents, in modern dress, as if it is a family member sharing the book with you – in a way, it is a ‘flash mob reading’. We’re experiencing the novel together, just like sitting down and reading a book with your own family. There’s an intimacy to it and there is a surprise right from the very beginning.

“We do go into the scenes and the actors become the characters – but they retain their own accents because when we read ourselves we don’t read in an American accent. We all read in our own accents.”

While the staging for the production will vary slightly from the way it is presented in Regent’s Park, which has its own live and unique flavour because of the open air element, the design for the touring production will draw in and envelop the audience as the actors tell the powerful story of young children growing up in the racially divided America of the Great Depression.

The theme of the novel deals with the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman in a small-town community. The man is defended by compassionate and thoroughly decent lawyer Atticus Finch whose feisty daughter Scout is on the cusp of adulthood.

“I like to challenge the audience’s imagination. It’s not lights go down, you lean back and watch,” Timothy said. “I invite the audience to use their imaginations. I invite them to play.”

He believes it is the universality of author Harper Lee’s characters which has given the novel, which he so clearly loves, such enduring appeal. It has certainly proved its popularity across every art form, from the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the film adaptation in 1962 which won three Oscars out of the eight it was nominated.

When Timothy first read it as a child it “had a profound effect on me”. “The beginning of this production is my own experience. I followed Scout and saw it through her eyes. When I came to read it again, I read it through a parent’s eyes, observing my children and how they observed the world so profoundly differently. When you re-experience it as an adult, you hear the book very differently.”

As the trial unfolds on stage, so do the characters’ preconceptions and Scout’s prejudicial fears, especially about the reclusive Boo Radley, are challenged and finally pushed aside.

Timothy said: “Harper Lee’s novels are universal, like the ideas of Shakespeare. This is why To Kill A Mockingbird is studied the world over. Without it, my life would not be as rich.”

Timothy Sheader was talking to Judy Foster, Norwich Theatre Royal Communications Officer and reproduced here by kind permission.

Book tickets here for the Norwich Theatre Royal production.

 

 

 

The Millers guide to great pubs in Suffolk [1]

 

11256107_446332755526846_1260495978_n

Whether you are a resident of the fine county of Suffolk or a visitor, one thing’s for certain, you won’t be disappointed by our pubs although it is not always easy to locate the very best of them. Some hide behind tall hedgerows of cow parsley or down winding country lanes and some boast an unprepossessing exterior concealing the treasure that lies within. If you aren’t local to the area, you can end up missing out on some of the UKs best pubs and wouldn’t that be a shame? That’s where The Millers Tale comes in with this pubs guide.

Some of these hostelries offer excellent food whilst others have a great rep for their beer, welcome and conviviality. A few rare beasts tick all of these boxes and function as true community hubs at a time when their kind has never been more under threat. If we’ve committed an injustice by failing to include your own favourite, let us know and we’ll endure the hardship and sacrifice of checking it out for our next pub guide.

In no particular order…

Oakes Barn, Bury St Edmunds.

11356734_375958549268908_932826176_n

This is a free house in the heart of the town with exquisitely kept guest real ales and a small and perfectly formed menu featuring cheese plates with local bread and chutneys (bread is made with ale from Shortts Farm Brewery), turkey and white bean chile, locally made pies and a few other bits and pieces. The staff and clientele are great: they’re deeply embedded in their community and determined to ensure the pub reflects its locality and they have won awards for this (West Suffolk Community Pub of the Year). Built on land that formed part of the towns original medieval defence ditch, the welcome is much MUCH  friendlier now and the pub is a declared community hub with ‘Blokes in the Oakes’ for older male customers, Bury Folk Collective, language conversation, Voice Choir and book and crochet club meetings among many, many other activities and special events. There’s a small outside town patio with covered area, a disabled loo and dogs/kids are welcome.

The White Horse at Sweffling

two-horses.jpgOut east, near to Framlingham Castle and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Suffolk coast, the tiny little village of Sweffling has a pub that is exactly what one would imagine a pub of its kind to be (great ales, deeply picturesque for a start) which is part of the reason why it has been voted Ipswich and East Suffolk CAMRA Pub of the Year and just recently, Suffolk Pub of the Year for 2015. With real ales and ciders, organically made wines and bottles of Fentimans cola, the pub is lit by candlelight at night, is attached to the award winning eco Alde Gardens campsite and run by two of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet- Mark and Marie. Offering pony and trap rides from a local during the warmer months and a tiny year round menu of damper bread, cheese boards and pies alongside cheese toasties, the pub likes to think of itself as a year round slow food version of a beer festival. There’s a wood burning stove, trad pub games and customers sit together around a large wooden table of a night. Dogs are welcome and there’s a small beer garden open from spring to autumn equinox. Call before setting out or check the website for more info and to book a stay at the fab eco glamping site!

The Cock at Brent Eleigh

download

This is the archetypal roadside village pub with oodles of history lurking inside deepest West Suffolk, midway between Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds via winding lanes. To arrive here is to be a traveller in time with a profound awareness of the country people over the centuries who stopped here en route to and from the local markets. There’s pink plaster and a thatched roof, saloon cats and two tiny rooms- really tiny- that nonetheless serve discerning patrons with excellently kept beer and incredibly good value roast lunches, trad puddings and a real ploughmans. Locals sit together at a large table with a shove ha’penny board engraved onto its wooden surface and strangers are made welcome. Warmer nights see live acoustic bands play in a mini marquee at the side of the pub whilst Tuesday evenings are cheese and acoustic music night: locals bring cheeses which go on the bar for all to try. We’ve sat here at night on the grassed bank looking up at the stars in a part of Suffolk that enjoys darker skies, listening to music float out of the bar and the soft whaft of bats as they swoop over. The surrounding countryside makes for great walking with a plethora of views across some of the loveliest and most rural parts of the county, go at dusk for added loveliness. The easiest way to access the lovely village with its Jacobean houses is by taking the lane across the road and following it down to the church and its grounds which include a pond. Then take a walk along the treelined pathway that leads you back onto the village lane via a gated entrance. Just gorgeous.

The Eels Foot Inn at East Bridge

eels foot

Another Jack (or Jill) of all trades and master and mistress of all of them, this pub also has a campsite, B&B and offers cycle hire alongside amazing food. Located near to RSPB Minsmere and close to the heritage coastal towns of Southwold, Aldeburgh and the villages of Dunwich, Peasenhall and Walberswick, the location couldn’t be more stellar: everywhere is accessible via a network of brideways, footpaths and cycle routes and the region is ridiculously over endowed with wildlife. The pub offers Adnams cask ales, ciders and all manner of other beverages alongside the best darned fish soup we’ve ever eaten (there’s plenty more foodie excellence too). Made by their French chef, we guessed what the secret ingredient is but we’re not going to spoil the surprise for you. Thursday night is ‘squit night’ where locals gather for an almighty folk jam session. The welcome is warm, the newly refurbished interiors are really lovely and you should go there. Now.

The Beerhouse pubs: The One Bull in Bury St Edmunds and The Crown at Hartest

crowngallery00

The Crown (pictured above) can be found in the village of Hartest on the right hand side of the lovely common. They serve their own Brewshed best Bitter and some Greene King ales, make home smoked salmon, run fish and steak nights and have a well balanced menu of local, seasonal foods all cooked to order. When we came, we had some deeply satisfying oxtail and beef cheek mini pasties, a large bowl of chowder and a stunningly flavoursome butternut squash main course. Kids are welcomed with a huge garden and adventure playground, there’s crayons to keep them occupied inside and a decent sized enclosed courtyard garden to corral them in too. Dogs are welcomed. The surrounding countryside is perfect for walking from the river that bounds the gardens (you’ll need to watch the smalls here) to the lanes that lead off the common.

The One Bull is a rambling timbered and beamed building with a clattery cobbled coach entrance to one side, located on Angel Hill and next to the Abbey Gardens. This is one of the best town pubs for food with a sophisticated and well curated menu of local and seasonal foods. Owned by Brewshed, it aims to offer consistency and quality across all aspects of the pub experience alongside somewhere smart to go out that bridges the restaurant-pub divide. The kids meals have as much care taken over them as does the adult menu although the pub becomes child free of an evening- something a lot of parents and child free punters appreciate. From guineafowl, lemon sole with fennel to pork scrumpets with apple sauce, the food is honest and earthy and portions are decent. Check out their twitter feed for a riot of photos of their latest menu choices. It’ll drive you loopy if you happen to be hungry.

 The Queens Head at Hawkedon

4465298_74f02e4b

Rural and sprawling and one of Suffolk’s proper country pubs, the Queen’s Head is well bedded down in a Domesday village and was originally a coaching inn. Located on the Upper Green with stupendous views of rolling chases and the steep wooded cuts that so resemble the Normandy countryside, the pub is a flagstoned, timbered, inglenooked wonder. With cask conditioned ales and ciders, a menu composed of local ingredients including their own livestock and meat from the attached butchers shop, you’ll find it very hard to drag yourself away especially if you are enjoying one of their regular game nights, wine tastings, beer or music festivals. But, if you do, the wool towns of Lavenham, Long Melford and Sudbury are close by as is Bury St Edmunds in the opposite direction. It is also close to the Hartest Crown if you want to do a double.

The Kings Head at Laxfield

laxfield-king-s-head

An Adnams ‘Community Pub of the Year’ and liked by us for several reasons, not least its location opposite a graveyard where the residents will have no cause to complain about any pub noise, this venerable Suffolk thatched pub is also a rarity- it boasts no bar. Perfectly kept ales from Adnams are served from barrels in the tap room and the ancient open fireplace in another room is surrounded by a perfect and cosy horseshoe arrangement of wooden settles with bottom shaped depressions from centuries of buttocks. There is a crisp cupboard from which customers help themselves and settle up when they pay for their drinks and you will might well walk into a spontaneously arranged music evening too. The Kings Head also serves up a short menu of staples- soups, sandwiches and sausages and mash plus smoked ham with bubble and squeak.

The Henny Swan, near Sudbury

 

CcKujS-W4AAxSk8.jpg

Thankfully open once more after a change of hands, this pub fronts the River Stour just a few miles from Sudbury (see pic above) and offers a simply lovely spot to sit and relax on the Suffolk/Essex border. Popular with families and river users- it has a landing stage for small craft and canoes- a lot of locals simply sit on the river bank when all the outside seating is full and bask in the sun. Another of those sprawling rural outposts for drinkers of yore, the pub has a brand new menu with a range of modern European starters and mains. The pressed pork belly confit with pickled vegetables, slow lamb with apricots and puds such as pistachio bakewell have gone down well. There’s a kids menu and play area also. The River Stour Trust run boat trips that go right past the pub and they’ll stop and drop you off if you like, picking you up later. We wish the owners well and are keeping our fingers crossed that the pub has a long and happy future.

The White Horse at Whepstead

WhiteHorse

Newly refurbished with the former owners of the much loved (and missed) Beehive at the helm, this seventeenth century inn with its warm yet roomy interior is well worth a visit. Copper topped bar, wooden furnishings and open fires plus a ‘tuck shop’ selling candies, chocolate and ice cream inject the place with both style and fun. The menu is eclectic and more stylish than your average pub (goats cheese bruschetta with honey & walnut, tuna with celery and tomato confit) and there’s also top notch pub classics including Sunday lunches. Whepstead is well served by footpaths and located in the heart of lovely West Suffolk. Should you not want to move, the sheltered back terrace is a lovely and sunny place to relax.

The Ram in Hadleigh

Background4.jpg

One of a trio of pubs in the same ‘stable’ (the others are the Lavenham Greyhound and the Long Melford Swan), this is a highly regarded ’boutique’ restaurant and pub just off the lovely High Street with its well supported independent shops. With a sunny courtyard for mid morning coffee and smart interior all inside a building that is typically composed of additions built at different times. More smart bistro than pub, it is still a lovely and relaxing place with a country feel and the menu has a range of options from lunches of lebanese chicken wings with tahini, courgette and garlic soup or cauliflower veloute and truffle ‘ice cream’ to sandwich snacks, cream teas, evening three courses and steak and wine nights. Want a treat? Plates of native Mersea Oysters can be had during those months with a ‘R’ in- this is the place for a smart lunch with your mates or an evening with your other half.

The Queens Head at Blyfordthe-queens-head-at-blyford

Here we have a truly old pub dating back to the fifteenth century and well endowed with the thatched roof, roaring log fires and beams that add atmosphere by the bucket load. Located near to Halesworth and Southwold in pretty north east Suffolk, its conveniently near the coast. There’s a pretty beer garden with lovely Blythe Valley views and plenty of original features inside and out: the thatched roof itself reflects the preponderence of reedbeds to be found in the nearby river valley and along the Suffolk coast too. Lots of the ingredients are local such as line caught cod and there are afternoon teas bookable. Kids are welcome and they’ll eat well before playing in the sandpit and play boat. In the Autumn the pub hosts the Blyford Church Fete which comes with all the traditional entertainment you’d expect froma village fete: pet competitions, stalls, cake stands, pony rides. The aforementioned church dates back to 1088 and is situated on the East Suffolk Like Walk from Halesworth to Walberswick and Southwold providing walkers and history lovers with plenty to do.

The Maybush Inn at Waldringfield

Maybush-waterfront

A prince among pubs for its views (just look at them, above!), perched as it is on the banks of the River Deben near Woodbridge, this is one of the quintessential Suffolk views where decades worth of visitors have watched the light change and play across the waters as they sup their pints and feel smugly lucky to live here. If you want to explore further, the Deben Cruise Company will take you on a two hour boat ride along the river and special protection area of the estuary and drop you back later, fed and happy. Famous for its excellent food including local game and seafood, there’s a kids menu and a wide choice of snacks and full meal options plus guest ales from Adnams. Pub goers get their car park fees refunded and there is access to the sandy beaches nearby. The pub is sister to the Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill and the Wilford Bridge among others and both of these are equally worthy of a visit.

The Peacock Inn at Chelsworth

slide4

A great location in one of the regions prettiest villages (the whole village is a conservation area), around nine miles from Long Melford makes this fourteenth century half timbered pub a must stop. The Peacock is as pretty as its bird moniker although it has a lot more substance too- it’s not just about the chocolate box looks. There’s pretty views and rooms to stay in should you decide not to move on, breakfasts are served in rooms full of exposed brick, fireplaces and wooden beams and local ales from Adnams, Woodfords and Nethergate Brewery all add to the general air of bucolic loveliness. Should you decide to go for a picnic, take out fish and chips currently priced at £6,95 are a bargain. Seafood linguines, Lavenham bread, venison sausages and more await diners who want to eat in and there’s a weekend menu too.

The Bushel in Bury St Edmunds

dw_112

Located on lovely old St Johns Street a linear street lined with independent shops and businesses and opposite the eponymous church, the Bushel is a well loved town pub with plenty of space to spread out and relax in. Food is served all day from morning coffee (free wifi) to bar snacks (try monkeys fingers-chicken in hot sauce with blue cheese dip, fried dill pickles) and full three course meals (buttermilk chicken, bags of doughnuts, marmalade ham and full roasts). Lately there has been a great programme of live entertainment with local folk singers, blues and acoustic musicians all making music here. Definitely a place for a night out then and its private car park eliminates the thorny issue of town centre parking on busier days.

The Star Inn at Wenhaston

3036085_3d920db5

Just a few miles from the sea and the lost village of Dunwich, this inn provides sanctuary for all those visitors sick to the back teeth of hipster fake this and hipster fake that. Run as a small local place and nestled in the sand and gorse covered five heaths of Wenhaston, the Star is immensely popular with locals, walkers and the tourists who have found it. Local rules here from the Penny Bun Bakehouse bread and Suffolk Red Poll Beef to the fish from the Sole Bay Co. The Whitebait are the freshest you’ll find and their crumb has never been acquainted with the Chorleywood Process. There’s a garden with boules and other games with space to host campers plus the occasional beer festival and live music. They seem cool with kids despite the tiny size of the rooms and a local bus service runs past the place connecting Southwold, Lowestoft and Halesworth. No need to drive if you are staying locally. (Image by Phil Gaskin)

The Fox at Ousden

4635601_2169b421

A hill top location not far from Newmarket and a lovely beer garden with kids play areas, bouncy castles and pet rabbits and chickens keep this pub popular. It’s well known for good food cooked by an Anglo-French chef and the lobster is particularly lovely, in fact fresh fish is their speciality. Menus are seasonable with the summer salads looked forward to and they have Woodfords Wherry and Greene King IPA as resident ales plus guest ones also. The bars are kept for drinkers only which keeps the ambience alive and they offer a great public service by offering fres bread for sale on Fridays from the Friendly Loaf Company and they also sell coffee from award winning local company Butterworth & Son. Socially there are quiz nights and mini beer festivals alongside communal acreenings of various rugby tournaments.

The Five Bells at Rattlesden

FibeBells

This is a proper pub serving proper beer and is to be found at the heart of a tiny Suffolk community, fronting onto Bell Meadow and in front of the village church- a beautiful location.There’s well selected and kept ales served in traditional no frills pub surroundings: there’s old style pub games and no pub meals per se although the owners will apparently knock you up a cheese toastie for very little money. Pork scratchings and pickled eggs are sold across the bar and there is regular live music too plus a range of esoteric entertainment from bike shows to plane flyovers.

The Red Lion in Grest Bricett

the-veggie-red-lion

Refurbed with al fresco terraces, the Red Lion is the only all vegetarian pub that we know of and it has become a bit of a destination for non meat eating diners who are tired of ‘choosing’ from just two options. There’s a wide choice of in house cooked meals with local ingredients such as African sweet potato stew and grilled smoked brie melt. Kids get to choose from macaroni choose and veggie nuggets plus a range of ice creams and other puds. The Red Lion also sells its own range of ‘redi-meals’ cooked in house and available to take away to heat at home. Choose from Caribbean curry and Moroccan tagines among many other options.

The Six Bells in Horringer

17-20131129144039_540x360

A recent visit to this pub which employs a new chef, formerly of Alimentum in Cambridge, blew us away with his variation on cheese on toast and I won’t forget the bosky taste of wild mushrooms, reblochon cheese and Suffolk black bacon piled onto local sourdough bread-a toastie of the highest order. There’s game in the winter and plenty of light fish and seafood dishes too. Open for lunch and dinner, the Six Bells has been refurbished with a sunny conservatory alongside a bar and side rooms filled with clean, stripped back furnishings and open fires, all popular with diners from near and not so near. There’s all manner of two course lunch offers (Autumn 2015 the cost is around 12/15 pounds for 2/3 courses), tasting menus and special dining events alongside well kept beers and a decent wine list. It’s a lovely mix of trad and contemporary and offers the stunning grounds of Ickworth Park and House over the road to walk off that lovely food alongside strolls in the Horringer countryside, all just a few miles from Bury St Edmunds.

The cutest little macarons- honey & lavender.

10356201_10154225043515386_9005479957984793109_nPerfect little local mouthfuls these. Scented with East Anglian Lavender and flavoured with local honey, the two ingredients in these macarons go together perfectly, giving you a plate of the prettiest little cakes. So pretty you will want to name them and take them home as pets.

A light hand with the lavender is needed so you don’t end up with something reminiscent of Miss Havisham’s knicker drawer and don’t worry about a few cracks or imperfections- their charm is in that homespun look. They are a lovely match for afternoon or high tea, weddings and christenings or kids birthdays- children do love these because little children love little food! Can you imagine how great these would look in an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party too?

Should you wish to explore the wonders of local Lavender some more, we can highly recommend a visit to Norfolk Lavender, near Heacham with its patchworked fields of blue, children’s playground and cafe for visitors.

This recipe is by Adam Coleby and Laura Wheeler @purpleted_88

Ingredients-

To make the macarons– 110g egg white /  55g caster sugar  / Natural food colouring in light lavender or violet / 110g ground almonds / 200g icing sugar /  1 Tsp lavender flowers

To make the butter icing– 75g butter /  250g icing sugar  / 10-15ml milk (add more if too firm) /  1tbsp honey

Method-

Pick the Lavender flowers and check over them for bugs if you are using fresh. If using dried, halve the quantity otherwise you’ll get too much of a floral hit. Sun dried lavender is intensified in flavour, you see.

Infuse the ground almonds and icing sugar with the lavender flowers for a minimum of 1 hour in a covered bowl left in a warm spot- aim for at least an hours infusion. Whisk the egg whites, sugar and natural colour to the consistency of shaving foam but do not over mix! Sieve the icing sugar/almond mix to remove any lavender seeds and ensure there’s no clumps.

Fold the dry ingredients into the meringue mix and keep turning until the correct consistency is achieved (shaving foam) and it is beautifully incorporated. Draw a ribbon of meringue on top of the mixture and it should settle back into the mix after a short time- that’s your test.

Pipe into a baking mat with a small plain nozzle, leave to stand for a minimum of 25-30 mins, they should form a skin on top the doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch it.

Bake at 150c for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool and pair up on the cooling tray, ready for sandwiching together.

Honey buttercream method –

Soften butter by beating well in a bowl and then add in the rest of the ingredients, beating well until you have a soft honey scented cream. You may need to add in more milk, tiny drip by tiny drip to slacken the consistency if its too stiff to spread inside the macaron. But don’t let it get too sloppy, it needs to hold the two halves together.

Pipe a small blob of the honey buttercream into the inside of the macaroon and sandwich together. When you’ve done them all, you should have some leftover filling. Add a couple more drops of milk to this until it is runny enough to drizzle decoratively over the top of each macaron.

 

A Shrub to drink (inspired by What Katy Did)

download (1)
Photo by the Bojon Gourmet

As a young girl I read and re-read Susan Coolidge’s ‘What Katy Did’ series of books and was intrigued by the bottle of shrub they took to drink on one of their picnics at the very start of the book. Although Cece later admitted that the ‘Shrub’ was little more than vinegar and water, I was determined to both try it and enjoy it <shudder> and took a glass of what we had, Sarsons, mixed with tap water down to the orchard at the bottom of my grandparents garden and tentatively forced myself to drink it. Illusions firmly shattered and deciding that American vinegar was clearly superior to ours (or they had the stomach and constitution of goats) I shelved any ideas about this becoming my new go to summer refreshment.

Until the latest post from the Bojon Gourmet landed in my in box that is. One of my favourite food writing bloggers from San Francisco, her Shrub recipe that follows has about as much in common with my (and Cece’s) version as the saintly and slightly sanctimonious Cousin Helen from the books had with Mae West. Cherries, maple syrup and Balsamic all add a mellifluous depth that cancels out any tendency to the tongue sucking raspiness that vinegar can evoke. Go on, try it.
Cherry Vanilla Maple Shrub {Drinking Vinegar}
Inspired by Carey’s Cherry Balsamic Shrub
Use grade A maple syrup here if you want a lighter flavor and brighter color (as pictured); grade B will have a deeper maple taste and the sodas will look a bit muddier, but they’ll still be super tasty. Give yourself 1-2 days to make this recipe as the mixture needs to infuse for at least 24 hours. To drink, mix 1 part shrub with about 4 parts soda water, top with ice, and add a splash of rye whiskey or bourbon if you like.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
2 cups (10 ounces / 280 grams) stemmed sweet cherries
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup (5.25 ounces / 150 grams) maple syrup
1/2 cup (8 ounces / 240 mL) apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Place the cherries in a large jar or bowl with the vanilla and maple syrup. Use a muddle stick (or other blunt object) to mash the cherries to a pulp then stir in the vinegars. Cover and let the shrub sit for 24 to 48 hours. Strain the shrub, pressing on the solids to extract all the lovely stuff you want to keep. Discard the pulp.
Store the shrub in the refrigerator. It should keep for at least 1 month.
Photo by Bojon Gourmet

Summer Like it Hot- our best beauty buys.

 

 

xl_summer-gadgets-cover-624-2
Photo by http://www.13.con

The leap from a healthy glow to a perspiring crimson mess is not so huge during summer, no matter what your skin type or colour is. Going from air con to full sun, from sun baked car to the blast of the chiller section in the supermarket plays havoc upon our equilibrium, our disposition and our complexion and trying to maintain some semblance of grooming requires the cosmetic big guns. Keeping it as simple as possible is THE mantra when it is hot and I try to maintain an inverse relationship with what is going on in my life- the busier it is, the more I scale back my hair and beauty regime. Indeed I try to streamline by using products that double or triple up and avoid the use of skin covering bases and creams which tend to melt, crease and generally look pretty ropey after a few hours. I cannot claim to be a Dermatologist nor do I possess any special knowledge of products for problem skins; only the problems I have had with my skin, so if you have regular break outs, Rosacea or other specific skin needs it is worth looking online for tailored help and information about products and the best ways to apply them. I’d love to hear your recommendations though and here, then, are my beauty superheroines- the products that always save the day.

I don’t waft around the White Isle (Ibiza) in a straw hat, a Maillot and a pair of kick ass shoes all summer but that vibe suffuses Charlotte Tilbury’s products. Brought up in Ibiza and in full possession of a certain Balearic spirit, Charlotte works the most unlikely of colouring- pale skin and red hair- in the heat, making this world famous make up artist an authority on faking a sun kissed look when you don’t really tan. Her website is packed with two minute tutorials on how to get her looks with her products (or others) and my favourite is the Beachstick in ‘Formentera‘, a sunkissed berry shade (in Charlotte’s words) bringing a slick of semi translucent colour to lips, cheeks and anywhere you want highlighted. The texture lets your natural skin tones show through so it actually looks natural albeit a kind of ‘looking your absolute best’ natural. The ‘Ibiza’ shade is a  burnished bronze, inspired by her famous breakthrough Castaway Kate shoot by Mert & Marcus for British Vogue which is now cited by make up schools everywhere as THE uber beach look.

stick-ct

I don’t do bronze or brown tones shades- being incredibly fair skinned I just look muddy although if I had darker skin tones this is the shade I would choose- it would look glowingly spectacular. They have a little bit of glimmer but not so much as to send you back in time to an inner Halston draped seventies disco chick at Studio 54, riding a white stallion a la Bianca Jagger, who, with her Nicaraguan skin tones, would most certainly suit it.

98801c0c7e4c0e208b88d39adb894946

 

Hei Poa Pure Tahiti Monoï Oil Tiara is my gift to you, coming in at a rock bottom price of around £6:50 on Amazon; even more of a bargain when I tell you that my 100ml bottle has lasted me two years (I keep it in a cool dark place). Going solid in cold weather and liquifying in the warm, this is not the swiftest product to use being very oily and slow to absorb and so definitely not one for the slap it on and get dressed brigade. For Gods sake, whatever you do, keep it away from silk, viscose, white clothing and other very porous thin fabrics. If you can cope with all that then this oil is manna from heaven for dry skins, sun battered skins, annointing you in a manner that suggests you’ve been cavorting in a Tahitian flower bed. Use it as a hair pack (will need two lathers to get it out), slick it onto hair before sunbathing, use as a body oil after a bath (wear an old terrycloth dressing gown afterwards) or as a highlighter on cheek and brow bones.

Red Fox’s Tub ‘O Butter, is a close relative of Bottle ‘O Butter which became scarcer than the Chinese White Leopards after India Knight eulogised it in her Sunday Times column. Even more prosaically packaged in its yellow plastic tub, which to me is actually quite cool, this is utilitarian chic and even more so because it doesn’t insult my (or your) intelligence with a load of pseudy cobblers about amino acids and peptides, reclaimed youth and invented derma-anatomy. I never believe any of that crap anyway and choose my products via word of mouth, the look, smell or feel or whether I will find them easy to work into my over complicated life. Tub ‘O Butter can be found online but for me, the glory of its discovery lay in finding it in a tiny local store in Bethnal Green which sold all manner of international hair and beauty products, most of them completely unknown to me. The excitement is ramped up when the instructions and descriptions of a product are in Arabic or Spanish or even in a language that I cannot recognise at all. These discoveries get double points and I exit the store feeling like some intrepid beauty explorer putting my derma life on the line.

th

So thick you need to scoop it from the tub (you’ll spend all day getting it from under your nails if they are long) and smelling blowsily of cocoa butter, dry skin will suck this up like sump oil leaving you a glowing (a little greasily at first) and soft, soft, soft. I have used it to heal scars, windsear, burns, grazes and gnarly feet and it is supposed to help combat the ashy look that black skins can sometimes develop. I have even used it to soften a pair of leather shoes adopting a similar principle to Liberaces skin regime- tan fiercely, slather with unguents. Oh and it only costs a few quid.

The polar opposite to Tub ‘O Butter in packaging, Klorane Cornflower Eye Makeup Remover with its dark blue bottle, delicately etched flowers and Ph level identical to that of tears is a brand that is frequently used by teenagers on mainland Europe but remains bewilderingly under appreciated in the UK. In this gently scented make up remover, Centaurea extract is obtained by distilling the dried flower heads, which contain a natural blue dye called cyanocentaureine known for soothing and decongesting. Many have found this is the least bothersome eye makeup remover to use for eyes dried out and irritated by Hay Fever and pollution. Cheaper than Clarins Alpine Milk cleanser and indeed all of the Clarins range, for me, Klorane is very similar with its use of botanical extracts and simple pharmacie style packaging. I like to think that when they briefly discontinued it a while back, my ‘Are you nuts?’ email was the prod they needed to bring it back. For six quid you are getting a little star here: models like it too and they know what they are talking about when it comes to torturous eye make up routines and how best to avoid piling on yet more torture when it comes to removing it.

klorane-eye-makeup-remover

Blue Dog in Clare is one of our lovely little independent Suffolk stores and what makes it even more of a must visit in my opinion is that it stocks Steamcream, one of my top five liniments both in design and actual contents. Lightweight but moisturising and handmade in Poole, a shot of steam is used to fuse together the fresh and natural ingredients such as oatmeal, lavender, rose and orange flower oils, cocoa butter and organic jojoba. An ever changing lid design means Steamcream has developed a cult following, especially in Japan where the appetite for limited edition tins commemorating events such as cherry blossom season is never sated.

A story of love lies behind my own love of Geo F Trumpers Extract of West Indian limes cologne first introduced by the company in 1880 and to me in the early nineties when I first encountered it whilst living in London. Having moved away to London from Suffolk I was initially very lonely and after starting a new post in a local drugs and alcohol unit, I used to chat with the janitor after work as he spent fifteen minutes preening himself in the office bathroom before going to meet his lady love and watch him slosh this sharp little cologne over his beard and locks then carefully replace the gilt crown shaped stopper back onto the bottle. He would trail the scent all over the office as he pottered about, replacing his tools and checking every room before we both left.

This janitor was aged seventy nine and was determined to not only keep his job (fortunately being a charity, the rules were more flexible regarding retirement) but to marry his girlfriend who was a few years his elder. Reader he did and I attended the ceremony held at a pentecostal church in West London. As the groom walked past me in the chapel, bride on his side, he was followed by perfumed clouds of West Indian and Sicilian limes, the scent that his new wife admitted made her first notice and follow him down the road after he walked past her to find out what cologne he used. Her intentio? To buy a bottle for the man she was with at the time. He talked her out of him and into his armsCharm + perfume, a world beating combination.

images (1)

It may be marketed as a cologne for men but I use it every summer during the daytime in rotation with Lancome’s ‘O De Lancome’, an invigorating citrus and green based EDT – lemon, mandarin, and bergamot, the green notes of basil, rosemary and coriander underpinned by the base notes of oak moss, sandalwood, and vetiver. ‘O De Lancome’ is a scent that doesn’t last all day being an eau de toilette but is light, cooling and clean on hot sticky evenings, a deeper and more complex version of extract of West Indian limes for nights out.

Having drier skin means I am a bit of a skin oil addict and Goē Oil is another favourite with its bag friendly tube packaging and scent, a result of a combination of 28 plant, fruit and flower oils and butters. Lightly scented with Monoi from Tahiti (that old favourite again), it goes into the skin quickly and leaves it feeling incredibly smooth. Less is more—only a small amount is needed and your skin will feel the difference. The ‘science’ behind its brilliance lies in the use of heavy concentrations of jojoba oil which is not technically an oil, instead it is a polyunsaturated liquid wax which is similar to sebum. Sebum is secreted by the human sebaceous glands to lubricate and protect the skin and hair and so jojoba oil supplements this action or replaces it in sebum deficient skin. Not one for those of you with oily skin to be honest. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse does a similarly great job in a more haute glam way; shimmery and glimmery, this is the oil to give you sheeny limbs and the slightly bronzed cheekbones of Helena Christansen circa 1985.

th

With its alluring scent and adaptability of use- face, body and hair, this is my choice for evenings, especially after a day in the sun when you want to accentuate your tan- add a stripe of oil down your shinbone or atop a cheekbone for emphasis. The oil comes in both clear and bronze tinted variants-the clear makes a great addition to a bath for super parched skin after you’ve subjected it to wind, sun, saltwater and chlorine. Not cheap but it does last- like most oils, a little goes a long way.

The warmer months often mean embarking upon the crop spraying and deforestation required to rid a girl of her winter pelt and if you believe the beauty press, one needs to spend a heck of a lot of cash in order to effectively remove ones unwanted body hair. I’m not going to go into the feminist argument for and against the retention or removal of leg, pubic and underarm hair here except to say that if you are still reading, I am going to assume that you have made the decision that the fur has to go. Or at least some of it. I am not an expert on permanent or semi permanent body hair removal techniques although I do highly rate threading for eyebrows- a technique that is easy to find the masters of in London, not so much in rural Suffolk. If anybody knows of a threader locally, please PLEASE do let me know.

noxzema-espuma-afeitar-classic-300ml-3413961

I am old skool, so old skool I use a disposable Bic and shaving foams belonging to my husband and other some such. He uses Noxzema because I bought it for him after seeing another London based friend using it and adored its sinus clearing menthol smell. I got it so I could filch it, being an upfront kind of girl. (or just plain cheap) Thick, thick, Mr Whippy style foam in that classic menthol or a newer cocoa butter scent (not so much a fan) in a fat, short can with trad-cool barber shop graphics, I feel all fifties when I see it in the bathroom. If Danny Zuko used shaving foam, Noxzema would be it.

I used to use whatever brush came with a product or even my fingers. I would use the wrong tools for the wrong job and what a surprise I got when I was given a set of these beauties and saw the difference proper application makes. Bdellium Tools Green Bambu Series brushes are professional eco-friendly makeup brushes with sustainable bamboo handles and all vegan soft synthetic bristles. Bamboo is one of the most sustainableand renewable resources and environmentally sound plants on Earth and due to its rapid re-growth cycle, it can be harvest with virtually no impact on the environment. I can vouch for this because the bamboo plant in my garden is currently making a break for the border, triffid like, and seems to bow down to no man, his spade or weedkiller.

bdellium_tools_-_green_bambu_series_-_kabuki_-_p_dzel_do_podk_adu_pudru_r_u_bronzera_-_995b_2_

All very noble I am sure and yes, I do want to save the planet and all but most of all I love these make up brushes because (1) they are super cute with their stubby, grasp friendly handles and (2) they do their job really well. They come in green, yellow and pink and in all manner of shapes, sizes and kit permutations. I wash them out with Johnsons baby shampoo and soak them every week or so in a solution of Miltons to disinfect them.

As a British child of the sixties, I am emotionally attached to the Rosehip due to the old NHS policy of prescribing a free bottle of rosehip syrup to every child born in the country from the Second World War onwards. War time fruit and vegetable rationing led to a rise in the cases of Scurvy (caused by Vitamin C deficiency) and people were initially encouraged to make their own from hedgerow roses. As need escalated, the government stepped in and my generation of children was the last to receive this overly sweet, viscous reddish pink concoction, a spoon of which was proffered every morning at breakfast from babyhood onwards. The Sargasso Trading Company has taken the rosehip, a very overlooked botanical ingredient and added it to its new healing balm, augmenting it with Amazonian cupuacu butter, rose geranium, ravensara oil and that mango butter again to make a balm that tackled my Latitude festival damaged feet and made them whole again.

Spending two hours on my feet in a pelting thunderstorm in a muddy field watching Daman Albarn, followed by a slippery walk back to our tent illuminated only by biblically epic lightning, wearing strapped leather sandals which chafed and abraded my feet led to a seriously infected blister and awful sores over my toes. I don’t want to think about what nasties lay waiting for me in that fetid mud. Once the infection had abated, I bought in the heavy guns, slathering my poor (now hideously unattractive trotters) in the balm. The heroic Rosehip has saved the day and the expected scarring has been averted and I am going to trial it on my daughter next. Being a Patissiere, she is constantly faced with a spitting and malevolent cauldron of sugar syrup which rises up and bites her. If this balm can sort out her burns, then the Sargasso Trading Company have a better version of Creme De La Mer on their hands, which itself was originally developed for post surgical patients and burns.

The downside? It may be made of lovely ingredients but the smell isn’t brilliant. Don’t put loads on if you are going out in polite company because as your skin warms, the ‘scent’ becomes even more pungent rendering it a product for those days when you are confined to the house. You may wonder, ‘Is it worth it when I can find products with a better scent doing pretty much the same thing?’. All I can say is that Eight Hour Cream, in my opinion, smells vile yet millions of tubes have been sold. Sometimes you have to live with the less fragrant in order to get the goods. And this works.

I am perpetually in search of the worlds best eyeliner, being a wearer of contact lenses and sometimes wearer of glasses too. The former renders my eye make up prone to smudging and smearing and the latter renders it all but invisible anyway unless I lay it on thicker. Which I don’t really want to do being no fan of the Houri look at midday. Finding an eyeliner that makes upper lash lining easy in a rush has been a life’s work that compares time wise with the search for the elusive Higgs Boson and they will probably find it first. However the Clarins Three Dot Eyeliner is the nearest I have come to it although it looks like a tiny raccoons paw emerging from a tube and not something you instinctively want to wave around near your eyes.

clarins-3-dot-eye-liner

The clever triple point sponge applicator helps you deliver precise lines and intense colour with ease. The space between each lash can be filled in ‘dot by dot’ to naturally accentuate the eyes and add volume to the lashes . This is handy for klutzes like me who can never drawn that perfect unwavering line and removes the chance that over correction leaves me looking like Liz Taylor, all tired and emotional during her Cleopatra years. If you prefer to use a pencil,  Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil is great, since it’s soft so it goes on easily and smoothly, comes in a bunch of non-boring shades, and lasts if not forever, then a goodly amount of the day. For something a little more portable, Hourglass Precision Liquid Liner comes loaded in a pen and has a slightly shorter brush than many, which makes for a less dramatic, more daywear-appropriate line and better control over application.

I need lip balm more in the summer than I do in the winter and unless I am some kind of unique beauty freak, I imagine some of you do too. Where I do start to become a little freaky is in my love for this pretty prosaic item of personal maintenance and my specialist Mastermind subject could well be this.

IMG_2537

I collect them (basically) and the launch of a new brand like Maybelline’s Babylips is a cause for great happiness in my make up bag. I go high and kitsch low when it comes to lip moisturising- I am no snob but I do love a bit of Clinique and the Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick is a favourite lippie shade that now comes as a light glossy balm. Those people who prefer pink can always grab a tin of Smith’s Rosebud Salve with its Victorian apothecary packaging or go utility-medical chic and keep a pot of Carmex handy (How much do I love Carmex?). This is my everyday go to because it multi tasks, works for blisters and other abrasions when you have nothing tailor made to hand. The happiest moment of my holidays in the USA besides discovering the cool and tiny tins of Aspirin (Excedrin) on sale there is seeing stacks of Carmex and Blistex in Walgreens and Walmart and Target- loads of different scents and colours, in tubes and pots, none stocked here. Finally the sweetly sheepy (but not in scent, only in packaging design) Lanolips is worth buying if you don’t mind spending a few extra pounds on lip balm. I love this stuff and the banana flavour is addictive and comes in a pale primrose coloured tube that is really really pretty.

rosebud-salve-300x300

One for baby now (and therefore also for you) on these stuffy and therefore hard to settle summer evenings. Milk Baby Nighty Night Room Spray relaxes and calms your baby, preparing them for the perfect slumber- I hope. With just a few sprays, the lavender, chamomile and sandalwood oils based formulation can help work magic on baby and therefore you too. If it doesn’t, just put the baby in another room or send it to its grandparents until it sleeps through or is eighteen or something (joking).

Milk-and-Co-nightynightAvailable online and selected high st stores, we have used this spray in our sitting room at night after a stressful day (trying to postpone the moment when the alcohol comes into play) and a friend who found breastfeeding difficult found that using it before a feed helped calm and centre her, allowing her milk to let down. Every little helps!

I’m a long time superfan of a silk pillowcase for less bedhead, less wrinkles and a cooler, deeper sleep on hot nights. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, allowing a healthier night’s sleep for you and your skin, and this pillowcase is made from top quality 22 momme colourfast 100% pure silk Charmeuse, made by hand, stitched with French seams which lie flat. They are super luxe and yes, they cost a bit more than JL cotton but make a wonderful gift for a mother to be instead of baby clothes that baby will son grow out of.  All profits from this Silky Kisses pillowcase go to the Fistula Foundation charity for mothers in developing countries who have experienced injury during childbirth. Multitasking at its best- help others whilst you slumber!

Acqua-alle_rose_roberts

The last time I visited Sardinia, not only did I discover Fiore Sardo cheese, Maloreddus pasta and Bottarga, I also bought shed loads of this fragrant and gentle rosewater tonic- “Acqua alle Rose”. Created in 1867 by the Roberts herbalists, pure Centiflora rose petal are distilled in spring water with no drying alcohol or artificial colours. Perfect dabbed on hot dry skin, used on babies and children and as ironing water or linen mist. Or do the Cleopatra bathing in rose petals thing and add a capful to bathwater. Widely available online and at independent chemists.

Think of all the classic summer foods- watermelon, tomato, grapes, strawberries, cucumber and what they all have in common is a high water content. Adopting this principle with beauty products, we end up with scents that scream summer whilst keeping us fresh and unencumbered with heavy, stultifying scents that are better suited to night times rather than the light and bright of day. The Yes To Cucumbers line uses organic cucumbers, anti-inflammatory green tea extract and lush moisturising ingredients like aloe vera and rejuvenating vitamins that help cool and soothe the skin. Most loved by us is the shower gel but the eye gels, creams and moisturisers are super refreshing too. Boots do a less expensive version (which was first) and it is just as good. I have a tube of the cucumber facial wash gel by the sink at all times and it is the single best way to wake up a tired face. If you want to continue the allotment theme, the Yes to Carrots and Yes to Tomato ranges are perfect- tomato leaves have such a distinctive sharp scent (think of a greenhouse full of them after you have watered it) that we love but we also know it can be a bit marmite with people hating it equally passionately. Plenty of local stores stock these ranges and I buy mine from Holland & Barrett in Bury St Edmunds.

31yde8drw-lMy obsession with stationery as a kid continues to be expressed in the ownership of cases full of pens to draw all over my face and body with. But I still love notebooks and writing pens and those cute little scented erasers that sit atop your pencil (tThe ones I loved at school were in the shape of fruits-biliously coloured with manic grins and sticking out little skinny arms I used to bite off.). I was weird. Now, my pencils and pens are a <ahem> tad more expensive with names like Chanel and Dior and Shu Uemura BUT they are still delicious of scent and bright in colour. Sometimes though I feel the need to be all swish and grown up and the glam Dior nail polish pen (Dior Instant French Manicure Penis made for people like me whose yearning for the accoutrements of childhood is matched by their inability to paint tidy, ‘between the lines’ nail polish onto their nails. I have zero dexterity so the pointed felt tip makes delicately manicured nails pretty foolproof to achieve. And the pale pink shade is fashion show quality; by this I mean beaucoup de pigment and a Mercedes pain spray level of depth. Not cheap but keep it in the fridge and it’ll last. Way to go- a French Manicure that looks pro.

A bright lip in the summer is the thing isn’t it? No matter how little you tan, or how dark your skin is there is always THE colour for you if you are prepared to get down and busy in the cosmetics department and try them all out- and most counters stock cotton balls and make up remover so you can use those samples hygienically and avoid walking out with hands striped with lipstick tests. For darker skins brilliant fuschia looks amazing, making teeth and the whites of the eye look brighter.  Stila Color Balm Lipstick in ‘Betsey’ is a favourite as is IMAN moisturising lipstick in ‘Mod‘. Both have some glossiness, moisturise (important in the summer where the air is drier) and have staying power- they are beach friendly.

th

Revlon Colourburst Balm Stain is one of those super chunky pencils that I am obsessed with; similar to the super successful Clinique Chubbysticks (which we also recommend), both so super cute they should be family pets really. ‘Honey‘ is a heathery, light pink/brown, especially suitable for light skins whilst those wanting more drama should go for the orange/red ‘Rendezvous‘. Easy to draw on, non draggy on delicate lip skin and they moisturise too.

Although I adore my monthly subscribers copy of US Vogue (even if Anna Wintour has been dialling it in lately), it really bugs me when I see a new beauty product that has yet to hit the shores over here- more so when it is an inexpensive buy. Paying shipping for cheaper products somehow hurts more. Neutrogena is the latest culprit and at time of writing (Aug 2014) I have yet to find this versatile little beauty on sale here- do tell me different if you know where to get it.

e166a22c9d6989fdd9b9ec044ffb779e SPF 20 in ‘Healthy Blush’ is a flat wide stick balm in a range of subtle colours and this flushed pink shade makes your face look so healthy and bright, who needs the sun? Or healthy lifestyle choices? Just fake it and suffer those shipping charges until the beauty goddesses in their infinite wisdom, make it available here.

Neutrogena is a bit of a go to brand in my house to be honest, especially after reading that one of my all time favourite models, Helena Christansen uses ‘Rainbath’, a curiously scented bath gel (curious in a good way with its spices, herbs and flowers). Now when you recall that Michael Hutchence once said that La Christansen’s skin was ‘like a percale sheet, satiny, stretched very tight with no imperfections’, it is a perfectly reasonable assumption that emulating her body washing regime might help in the attainment of a sheet like epidermis. Not the most romantic of swain-like declarations about his loved one to fall from the lips of a celeb but ho hum, I’m sure she greatly appreciated it. Rainbath is sold online and I have also seen it in quite a few independent chemists- another great reason to support them.

6861030_320x385

If your baby has nappy rash, it seems counter productive to load chemical filled products onto their skin in an attempt to cure it yet so many very well known products contain ingredients I am a bit hmm about. Burts Bees nappy rash cream has no phthalates, parabens, petrolatum, or SLS and its gentle almond oil and sunflower oil base allows it to glide on smoothly, avoiding dragging already sore skin. I am also a huge fan of their Marshmallow day cream in the sweetest packaging, soft and whippy in texture and not heavily loaded with scent. That’s a day cream for us, not our babies! Marshmallow Day Cream comes in a fifties style glass jar which makes it even lovelier in our opinion.

A bit pricey but Raw Gaia floral spray for babies and children is heavenly mist in a bottle. Made with organic and distilled floral waters, Roman chamomile, rose otto and lavender, I cannot claim any special effects other than relief from heat and prickly rash, a room made wonderful and the possible sleep inducing effects of both. And watching a baby laugh as the mist lands on them is hilarious in itself.

Juniper

Hair is my bugbear- so much so that I resort to bad rhymes and cheap wine every time I catch sight of my unruly mop in the mirror. Funnily enough the best hair look I have ever had was after a dip in the sea and a blast of wind drying on a less sheltered Sardinian beach a few years back. Using the various commercial sea salt sprays doesn’t quite match that naturally acquired tousle and they seem a lot of money for what amounts to basically salt + water + chemicals to make the concoction cling to the hair shaft- especially if they don’t bloody work. The Guardian rates Toni & Guy Sea Salt texturising Spray but I don’t- if you have to leave it in overnight because you cannot wash it out, it leaves you with the textural equivalent of a coughed up hairball on top of your head. The Umberto Gianni one isn’t much better although the bottle design is cute.

Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray weighing in at over £20 is about the only one that comes near to the proper strand-y separated waves that I remember and loved. It keeps elasticity in the hair so you can get a comb through it the next day, or even later on, smells like sun cream covered skin on a hot day by the beach and lasts- you don’t need much. Spray into dry or towel dried hair, tustle through with fingers or wide toothed comb and shake out. If you go out in the wind or blast your hair with a fast dryer then you’ll get the full effect,

Keeping in with the hippy vibe, all us chicks who were born in the sixties and early seventies remember those suntan oil ads- Bergasol with the one pale and one uber tanned woman- single perfect plait dangling along their spines, sitting by the pool side. How times change hey? Nowadays only a light tan is desired; sun protection whatever your skin colour being the thing, and there is a widespread awareness that even the most pigmented of skins is still vulnerable to all kinds of sun related damage if not looked after.

pretty-little-things-hot-hair-care-products-we-love-bumble-surf-spray

Aged sixteen and on a four week holiday to Korea and Hong Kong I decided to ape the locals and annoint myself in the carrot oil, advertised and sold everywhere- a dark orange sticky concoction probably better suited to well tanned Korean skins, although I cannot imagine it being safe or hydrating for anybody to be honest. I mean, look at the skin of a carrot- hardly baby soft is it? I spent the rest of the holiday being treated for partial thickness burns, unable to feed myself because of the rawness of the skin on my chest rendering me unable to lift my arms (yup I sunbathed topless and nearly burned off my nipples). It took three months to heal, looked like a side of well fried bacon for some time and I am now a factor maximum girl. On that day I learned that cloud does not = no rays and that adverts sometimes lie.

My teenage brand of choice after this little episode was Hawaiian Tropic (and still is to be honest) because that smell of coconut, salty hot skin, tiare and other exotic flowers is super intoxicating and instantly transporting. So much so that I retain out of date sun creams for use as a general moisturiser. Oh that smell…. Anyway, they have a rather lovely after sun body butter (a term I hate- who wants to imagine butter all over their skin, slowly turning rancid?) out which is only five quid from supermarkets and chemists, has aloe and is even more effective if you keep it in the fridge. There is also an ‘exotic’ coconut one <swoon> too. I’ll take both.

dcd7e980-9070-48d7-90c6-4f5cfc7689ce

BTW, make sure that your sun cream protects against both skin ageing UVA and the potential for triggering skin cancer UVB but remember we also need a few minutes of sunlight every day to make vitamin D and using sunblocks all the time will render you vulnerable to deficiencies in this. Be balanced. Continuing the smelling like the beach theme, I used to buy an amazing perfume by Aramis called New Skinscent West for Her which has been sadly discontinued. Imagine if you stuck a melon on top of a car, drove it around a tropical island in the sea breeze then distilled all of that into a bottle? Well, there you have it and a large part of my adulthood has been spent on a quest to find something similar. I found one a couple of years ago that omitted the melon bit but otherwise smelled gorgeous- Sweet Sun Dior with mandarin and middle notes of tiare flower and jasmine. The sun screen scent is from a base of vanilla, musk and ginger. They claim that the fragrance includes pro-endorphin which gives a natural feeling of pleasure. I think that last bit is a load of old cobblers personally. Any natural feelings of pleasure come from (1) smelling lovely and, (2) being reminded of holidays.

MCX0707BESPLURGE003-medium-new

I have also been trying out a Jil Sander fragrance ‘Sun‘ which is not as easily available but is a little less obvious yet still stunningly summery in an oiled on the beach kind of way. A really cool design too with sans serif block lettering along the rectangular bottle. Estee Lauder have their ‘Bronze Goddess‘ hybrid of scent and body oil which has that salt skin + on shore breeze fragrance but a terrible name. Finally, a mix of Body Shop coconut, vanilla and a flower oil of your choice will produce very pleasing results. From a time when financially that was all I could afford to now when I can afford to spend a little more, it still pleases me to mix my own scents by spraying layers of them on and seeing what happens (people run screaming from the room?). Sometimes it can have unexpectedly good outcomes.

a219e4996947c769cecc205747b2ea84 I love Daniel Galvin Jnr. Honeydew & Watermelon Hair Juice Shampoo, to continue the melon theme. Ostensibly for kids, this will gently cleanse hair and leave it smelling of honey and honeydew melon which is what one would expect: the clue is in the name. No more tears either. Not cost wise (Waitrose stock it) nor use wise. They often have price incentives on the whole range too so be sure to snap up the DG Kids Top to Toe 3 in 1 if you see that on offer too. I’m not necessarily a fan of products that smell like (1) pudding (no creme brulee hair for me), or (2) cheap fruit salad at a Holiday Inn buffet meal but those clean sharp scents like tomato, melon or cucumber and the warmer honey, vanilla and coconut smells are perfect for summer. Washing hair or body in tepid water on a hot day is super refreshing with this shampoo (it can be used for both) and kids tend to love it too.

47441011_H

I seem to have a bit of an obsession with facial sprays but this one is where it all started. Paul Mitchell hair products haven’t had such a high profile lately but in the nineties they advertised far more widely and were quite THE brand in London where I lived. The beauty of Awapuhi Moisture Mist is in its multi tasking. Made for hair and body it is divinely scented and impregnated with Sodium PCA (giving it a silky feel on the skin), spirulina and plankton extracts alongside that awapuhi, a tropical ginger plant widely distributed throughout Polynesia although originally from India. An uber plant to be honest – all of its parts have a use from the rhizome which is pounded to make remedies for toothache, indigestion and a poultice for sprains to the leaves and stalks which flavour pork and fish.

Paul-Mitchell-Awapuhi-Moisture-Mist-100ml

In Hawaii, the clear and sudsy juice present in the mature flower heads is excellent for softening and brings shine to the hair, used both as wash out and leave in conditioner. Locals pick or cut the flowers, squeeze the sweet juices onto hair and bodies and then swim, letting the mountain streams wash the residue off. Now if that does’t make you want to use this spray and the Awapuhi shampoos and conditioners in this range, you have no poetry or romance in your soul and I cannot help you. Look for Paul Mitchell in independent salons.

Ten Reasons to Visit… Suffolk

Our’Ten Reasons to Visit’ series focuses on Suffolk this month and we have had a great time researching and compiling some fabulous local attractions for you to visit. Let us know what you think!

download
Crinkle Crankle Walls

(1) Best Thing About the Area

With its crinkle crankle walls, a House in the Clouds and the Nutshell – the smallest pub in the land, Suffolk is no ordinary place and we don’t do things by halves. Bucolic scenery we have in abundance – miles of heritage coastlines stretching from Lowestoft in the North East to Felixstowe, acres of forests and watery wildlife reserves such as Minsmere – home to BBC Springwatch and our scenic country walks, eulogised by many of Britains best nature writers. We also do culture well too with historic small towns packed with independent shops, theatres and other arts activities and the larger county towns of Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds doing it all on a greater scale. Sports fans are well catered for from the sport of kings and queens at Newmarket; geocaching and orienteering on the rise; rugby clubs and excellent running, fishing and cycling facilities- Suffolk has miles of well maintained cycle trails.

Prime territory for foodies with our famous bacons, hams, local vegetables and fruit; the breweries and bakers plus a raft of award winning places to eat, the very best of Britain can be found under these wide Suffolk skies. This is the county for castles and stately homes with many fine examples and ruins of important residences from times past. Framlingham Castle is one of the most spectacular with a packed timetable of events for families year round and Kentwell Hall is internationally famous for its Tudor Recreations.

Suffolk is a fabulous place to bring a family up in too with easy access, not only to all that Suffolk offers but also to London and Cambridge- the former is only an hour away by car or public transport, putting a working commute within reach. Local community organisations work very hard to welcome new families and we’d love you to contact us if you are looking to put down stronger roots here- we can help you settle in with our network of local Mumsnetters, meet ups and other groups.

(2) Best Child Friendly Cafe

Tucked away inside one of our great museums, the Osiers Cafe is heavenly for families with broad grassy seating areas, lots of ride on tractors, ducks to play with and a simple menu of freshly cooked meals, snacks and kids lunchbox specials. The Wild Strawberry Cafe in Woodbridge is a pretty little place to stop for a coffee whilst kids occupy themselves with free colouring and if you are in Sudbury, the Honey B has a play area, breastfeeding room for Mums who want more privacy (although they are welcomed with open arms everywhere in this lovely cafe), free Sunday papers and WiFi. Oh and the food ls super tasty.

museum of east anglian life 003
Osier cafe

(3) Best Child- Free Night Out

Our restaurants have really raised their game. From modern Indian at Orissa , the amazingly creative food at Darsham Nurseries – praised by Marina O’Loughlin, to The Crown at Bildeston, a highly rated pub with bar food and more formal dining that still retains a warmth of welcome, we eat well here. We are spoiled for the arts in Suffolk too. The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich offers a cornucopia of events and a customer service second to none. We’d follow a show with a night time stroll along the Ipswich docks with its floodlit marina, late night bars and stunningly romantic views across the River Orwell. Finally, an evening out with a difference- The Cock Inn at Brent Eleigh is a tiny roadside pub that offers THE authentic and timeless Suffolk pub experience. Go there on a Tuesday evening for cheese night where the bar is filled with cheeses bought by locals who then proceed to play roots and blues music for hours on end. In the Summer the doors and windows are thrown open to the dark country night skies. It is beautiful.

download (1)
Neptune Marina

(4) Outside Space

Stunning parks, nature reserves and playgrounds makes it rather hard to choose but we’d have to single out Clare Castle Country Park for its Norman castle ruins, disused railway track walk, lakes and water birds to feed, playgrounds and the nearby gorgeous town of Clare to explore. If you want classic woodland then we’d suggest a trip to Arger Fen, especially at bluebell time. The Suffolk coastline offers miles of sandy beaches, dunes and heathlands to explore plus plenty of organised activities for all the family- Covehithe is one our our favourites for its sheer dramatic beauty and isolation. The glorious Pin Mill. estuary in Woodbridge with a stunning sunset backdrop to the miles of riverside walking is another popular beauty spot as is the village of Ramsholt. Sit by the estuary of the Deben and eat seafood at Winkles at Felixstowe Ferry after a long walk along the riverside, looking out to sea. The famous Sudbury Water meadows with swan feed at Brundon Mill, captured by many an artist and the landscaped Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, packed with town park features are both classic Suffolk tourist attractions. Brandon Country Park with a walled Edwardian garden and the nearby forests at Thetford and Santon Downham are paradise for walkers, horseriders and cyclists. We recently spent a holiday at Sweffling and walked the five heaths around Wenhaston followed by a meal at the Wenhaston Star. The undulating paths through bracken and ferns which children love to run up and down, all within a few miles of the sea make this a wonderful place for a day out or longer.

800Covehithe-north1 (1)
Covehithe Beach

(5) Hidden Gem

The wonderful Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket deserves to be far better known as it provides hours of fun, education and entertainment in the most perfect and beautiful setting. Surrounded by acres of shaded green lanes, woods and meadows with windmills, rare breed animals and steam engines to explore, the exhibitions cover all aspects of local life from displays of toys throughout the ages, Romany wagons (and an amazing Airstream caravan) to the history of the former local asylum and a walled garden. Kids can drive mini tractors round a fenced grassy track, play with interactive displays scattered everywhere and eat in the lovely cafe and gardens. There are buggy friendly trails, babychanging and breastfeeding is welcomed and there is a programme of baby yoga and storytime mornings year round. Knowledgeable and friendly guides are there to help enhance your experience.

(6) Community Venues

The Stomping Ground supports Ipswich families via a programme of events, a community cafe and breastfeeding support whilst the Synergy Cafe in Haverhill helps families affected by Dementia -something that is very important when you consider that many of us are caring for both children and elderly parents. Workwise in Bury St Edmunds runs its own giftshop called Cavern 4. Packed with covetable items, my Father in Law was central in establishing this local Mental Health enterprise so we are very proud of it and of the amazing artists who contribute such beautiful work.

(7) Free Visitor Attraction

The whole of our amazing coastline counts as a free visitor attraction, especially if you take a picnic and steer clear of the traditional seaside amusements. The Alfred Corry Lifeboat Museum in Southwold offers free entry although donations are appreciated to go towards upkeep. Helping install an idea of how important the sea is to people in Suffolk and how it must be respected, parents can then walk the length of Souhwold Pier and admire stunning Suffolk sea views. The pier also has free entry although the exquisitely maintained Vintage Seaside arcade games are not free to play. Walking in the Rendlesham Woods with its history of possible ‘alien spaceship ‘landings is another quirky Suffolk thing to do; follow the alien trail markings and get your children’a imaginations working overtime, especially if you walk in the late afternoon when the sun slants through the forest and gives everything a lovely spooky edge.

download (3)
The Ship at Dunwich

(8) Best Day Out

The classic Enid Blyton- esque seaside experience is there to be had in Suffolk. We recommend a drive to Dunwich where you can explore the mysteries of this drowned town and be charmed by stories of the bell apparently being heard chiming under the sea. Lunch (and a swift beer) can be had in either the rambling former smugglers and fishermens pub The Ship at Dunwich or the super traditional seaside fish and chips, eaten right next to the dunes of Dunwich Heath and pebbles of the beach at the Flora Tearooms. Spend the afternoon on the beach, wandering along Dunwich Forest or visit the tiny Dunwich Museum which tells the story of this amazing place. The drive home passes through plenty of beautiful villages packed with stores selling local foods and produce. Keep an eye out for the road side stalls full of fruit, veg, eggs and local honey too.

(9) Place to Live

Although the Suffolk school system is in a state of flux with changes from three tier to two tier education, we still boast wonderful schools and teachers including an abundance of smaller village primaries and great, supportive communities around them. Small towns like Clare, Eye, Framlingham, Beccles, Newmarket, Hadleigh and Woodbridge all really good great facilities and possess community pride with a busy calendar of events and promotions and active business organisations dedicated to protecting independent shops. The larger towns of Ipswich, Lowestoft, Haverhill, Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds have good shopping facilities, leisure centres and improving transport networks; they are vibrant and increasingly multicultural with hard working organisations such as Bid4Bury and local chambers of commerce driving towns forward. Many towns are within one hour of London via rail, routed through Ipswich, Cambridge or Colchester and quite a few villages are connected to the network too.

images
The Arc

(10) Places to shop

Great effort has been made to protect the local and the independent and small towns and villages like Clare, Lavenham, Framlingham, Halesworth, Aldeburgh, Woodbridge Sudbury and Hadleigh excel at this- we love shopping in Suffolk. Bury St Edmunds has a large new shopping centre called The Arc but boasts ancient streets of independent shops- St Johns, Risbygate and Abbeygate St alongside one of the UKs best bi-weekly markets. Other markets can be found in many Suffolk towns alongside newer farmers markets – the Snape Maltings market being one of the best. Ipswich boasts the largest shopping centre and winding streets of shops over a larger area although the tiniest of Suffolk villages offer a surprising range of eclectic stores which manage to provide an online ordering service too. Check out our many antiques barns too- Clare, Long Melford and Snape all have them still although they have declined greatly in numbers since the heyday of ‘Lovejoy’, the TV series set in and around the Suffolk antiques trade.

large-604280-download
Ramsholt

 

Why do so many cartoon characters have mothers who are dead?

The dead-mother plot is a classic of children’s fiction, but animated movies have supplied a new twist: the fun father has taken her place. Sarah Boxer asks why in this interesting feature, reproduced here with kind permission from The Atlantic. .

Zohar Lazar

Bambi’s mother, shot. Nemo’s mother, eaten by a barracuda. Lilo’s mother, killed in a car crash. Koda’s mother in Brother Bear, speared. Po’s mother in Kung Fu Panda 2, done in by a power-crazed peacock. Ariel’s mother in the third Little Mermaid, crushed by a pirate ship. Human baby’s mother in Ice Age, chased by a saber-toothed tiger over a waterfall.

I used to take the Peter Pan bus between Washington, D.C., and New York City. The ride was terrifying but the price was right, and you could count on watching a movie on the screen mounted behind the driver’s seat. Mrs. Doubtfire, The Man Without a Face, that kind of thing. After a few trips, I noticed a curious pattern. All the movies on board seemed somehow to feature children lost or adrift, kids who had metaphorically fallen out of their prams. Gee, I thought, Peter Pan Bus Lines sure is keen to reinforce its brand identity. The mothers in the movies were either gone or useless. And the father figures? To die for!……..Read the full article here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Boxer is the author of a graphic novel, In the Floyd Archives, and has recently finished its sequel, Mother May I?

 

Lawshall’s Telephone Box Book Swap.

 

9cb1e98dabba7839f76a551e7d72a2fb

The red telephone box is a British icon, standing by the roadside often in the most isolated of places, providing phone services at a time when many British homes were not connected. Nowadays they are rarely needed and many have been decommissioned and sold off to private buyers where they sit in back gardens; a nostalgic link to our past.

The village of Lawshall in West Suffolk has retained its red phone box but things are not as they initially appear. The tiny cast iron box opposite Swanfields was purchased by the village for £1 when British Telecom decided it was no longer cost effective to maintain it as a telephone booth. Deciding upon a use for it, the villagers settled upon its conversion into a book swap and community notice board, replacing the old telephone logo with a sign proclaiming its new lease of life and function.

Local library services have taken a beating with the effects of cuts and whilst librarians are keen to emphasise that the phone box is NOT a library per se (they are rightly protective and proud of the profession of Librarians), the book swap is well used and maintained and you will find some eclectic and contemporary books inside. Should you wish to read your newly acquired book nearby, the Swan Inn has been recently refurbished and offers meals alongside well kept ales which carry Cask Marque approval.