Wednesday, 24 August 2011

La Mersa in Palermo Soho

Must visit BA shop, La Mersa, is moving from it's a little out of the way (but handy if you travel regularly on the no39 bus) location on Honduras, to a new spot on Nicaragua and Thames. As I'm not there, I can't be sure, but could it be where El Ultimo Beso was? Local friends, please confirm!

This now places several of my fave  in a cluster around this corner of Palermo. Alfombras Wool, Elementos Argentinos, Los Dias de Mario, Fradusco and Libros de Pasaje (+ other cute shops in between) are all within a four block walk.

Suerte to Sebastian at the team at La Mersa in their new location. I can't wait to visit!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The boys' best friend

Harry is Granny's long-suffering black lab. He is a gentle dog, who puts up with Seth bossing him about and taking him for walks around the garden, and Bo cuddling him and lifting up his ears.

Harry was named after my first nephew, Harry Peace, because I so disliked my in-laws previous badly-behaved black lab, and  I adored my little nephew so much they figured I couldn't dislike someone (even a dog) with the same name.

Harry the dog is so patient and gentle with the boys that I couldn't dislike him, whether or not he was named Harry.

Design blogging to resume soon....

This is not an announcement

If we had a baby girl we were going to call her India Rose Balch. We didn't, we had two boys, Seth Sebastian and Bo Benjamin.

I definitely feel I am a Mama for boys, not girls, but I kind of wonder, if I could have had one looking as cute as this...!  I had a cuddle with our friend's new daughter, Saskia, who is a quarter Indian (I am a quarter Armenian...well actually, one eighth Greek/one eighth Armenian). I just love her thick black hair, at less than two weeks old.

Truth is though, she's the third newborn baby I've held in the last month and as wonderful as it is and as beautiful as they were, I didn't feel one bit broody and I'm perfectly content with my two car and train obsessed imps.

Our evening with Ratty and Mole

Friday, 19 August 2011

Saving the English apple

Thanks to Copella's and Thompson and Morgan a free Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree should be delivered to our door in November! I bought a few bottles of juice today in Sainsbury's and qualified for their offer as part of their 'Plant and Protect' campaign to save the English apple.
Next month we're moving to Herefordshire, the apple-growing corner of England. I plan to do my bit by buying locally grown and pressed apple juice by the gallon, and planting and nurturing my new tree.

Date night

I'm taking my two car-obsessed boys to see a play about a car-obsessed toad this evening. We're heading up the road to Marks Hall with our rug and a picnic, to see the Cambridge Touring Company's performance of on of my favourite childhood books, Wind in the Willows.

Homage to Hungary

We're back from our month chugging around Europe by train. Even with small two kids, travel by train is still romantic, civilised, and relatively easy. In Spain, France and Italy, the railway line trails the coastline, in Austria and Switzerland it cuts through gorges and climbs up to fresh meadows with the crisp mountain air I craved in India. We camped on cliff tops, in a botanical garden, nestled up to the walls of an ancient castle, beside a lavender field, in agri-campings, an eco-camping plus some some really dreadful campsites.

Each country had its charm, but the most surprising was Hungary. We were guests of Jennifer Webster and Zsolt Buday of Hip Homes Hungary, so it was always going to be a treat, but I really didn't expect the Lake Balaton area to be so charming.

Their summer villa is in Zsolt's hometown of Balatonfured. The local mayor has made a series of successful bids for EU funding to improve the town and the result is impressive. Large wooded parks, manicured gardens, museums, handsome old buildings, a lakeside promendade with market stalls and open air concert areas.

A short drive or boat ride away is the more well-known Tihany. Set on a hilltop with long views across the lake the main attractions popular for its abbey with twin onion-domed clocktowers, grand villas, and cute shops devoted to local produce like paprika, lavender, pottery.

A drive (or bike ride, the area has an excellent network of cycle lanes) inland, past sweeping fields of lavender and sunflowers, and you reach the Kali Basin. The landscape of rolling meadows and vineyards is broken up by unusual volcanic mounds. On Sundays during the summer there's a big market in a field, selling typical local fare like ginger beer, raspberry presse, local cheeses, as well as antiques, pottery, embroidered textiles, basketware. 

After our market stop we joined friends for lunch at Kovirag Panzio, before heading across the road to the Kali Art Inn for a nose around and a pot of lavender tea.

As the sun was setting on our drive home Jen took a detour to show me the workers cottages in the vineyards near Balatonfured. They are wonderful! Built in the late 1800s they are built into the hillside, with grass covering the wine cellar at the rear of the cottage and a small living space at the front. Most are thatched and many are in a state of disrepair. They can snapped up for around 30,000 Euros and would make an adorable weekend cottage, being just a two hour drive from Budapest.

Talking of which, we really enjoyed Budapest too, and definitely want to go back and get to know it better. We went for a drink at Szimpla Kert, the place that was my inspiration for my proposals for the old mansion on Bolivar street in San Telmo. So sad that didn't come off as Ollie and both felt we were in Buenos Aires in that garden, it was just so incredibly similar to the space and what I had imagined for Bolivar.

With Hungary fresh in my mind, it's no wonder that Parna, a company specialising in Hungarian textiles, caught my eye while scanning some design blogs yesterday. Kath Griffiths sources vintage linen and embroidered fabrics from Hungary and other Eastern European countries to sell online from her Oxford base. I immediately ordered some gorgeous indigo linen and a hand embroidered cushion.

A quick google search today turned up an article in The Sunday Times about Lake Balaton and the Kali Basin. I'm not sure if RyanAir still offer flights there, but a couple of days down there could easily be combined with a short stay in Budapest. I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for something a little bit different and off the beaten (at least by Brits) track.