Frosty Forecast

Winter wonderland walk

Just when we thought winter was officially over, freezing temperatures and snow are back this week. An hour long walk in Surrey worth bundling up for:

Start with a quick breakfast, brunch or light bite at Cafe Menta on Esher High Street. Walk up Esher High Street towards Moore Place and take a right onto the public footpath just past Hill House. Moore Place Golf Course will be on either side of the path. Continue down the path until you reach a fork in the path.  Proceed down the right hand side path down a steep hill. At the end of the hill you will reach West End Lane.

Take a left on West End Lane and when you reach the fork in the road stay to your right to Winterdown Road. West End Pond on your left is the central focal point of the small village of West End.  Down the road from this picturesque spot is Garson's Garden Farm Centre, home to the UK's largest 'Pick Your Own' produce along with an enormous gift and retail area and refurbished cafe.

On the way, keep an eye out for the colorful ornamental cabbage. These plants are used by gardeners to provide a shot of color during the winter months before spring flowers emerge. And in fact, they get brighter as the temperature goes down.

Another natural phenomenon, I get caught up in photographing is spider webs covered in ice crystals. Despite living in cold temperatures before, I don't recall call seeing such large and varied displays (or it could be that there just weren't as many spiders where we lived!).

You will also see patches of snow drops that signal the end of winter and blooms of daffodils that are a sign spring is on its way.

Tune in next week to find out where else they are in bloom . . . 

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February Finds

It is hard to believe another half-term is upon us — didn't we just get back from Christmas?
Luckily, London has it covered . . .

Chinese New Year (February 18 and beyond) — February 16th marked the kickoff of the Year of the Dog. Today, London boasts the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia. The parade complete with dragon and lion dances will start at Charing Cross Road at 10 am and go through the streets of Chinatown. From noon to 5 pm free activities will take place at: Trafalgar Square (main celebration), Charing Cross Road (talent and community), Leicester Square (family and children) and Shaftesbury Avenue (martial arts and cultural). The grand finale in Trafalgar Square will feature a fireworks display at 5:30 pm. In case you are not keen on the crowds, Chinatown restaurants will feature festive menus until March or checkout five places outside of Chinatown. 新年快乐! Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

Climb Over O2 (50% off until February 25) — Up the O2 is really a climb over the roof of the O2 on a raised walkway. At the top, there's an observation platform with 360° views of London and its landmarks including Canary Wharf, Olympic Park and River Thames. You’ll also have a chance to star in your own movie with help of motion trackers. But hold on tight for the climb, which is 52 meters above ground level and reached via a fabric walkway. 2074 071002
Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX

London Fashion Week Festival (February 22 - 25) — London Fashion Week (LFW) is one of the highest profile fashion events in the world and one of the ‘big four’ (New York, London, Milan and Paris). The event is limited to members of the press, buyers or if you are a celebrity. However, tickets for London Fashion Week Festival February 22-25, which follows directly from LFW, uses the same exhibition and catwalk venue. The event features expert talks, catwalk shows and a designer shopping event, including emerging to high profile designers. Orla Kiely will give a talk on February 23rd in advance of retrospective exhibit Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern at the Fashion & Textile Museum opening in May.
The Store Studios, 180 The Strand, London WC2R

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Six Sweet Sensations

Worth sharing beyond Valentine's Day 

Balthazar (London) — Having only been to Balthazar for dinner, we were intrigued with the idea of having breakfast. They are known for kouign amann from the Britanny region of France. It is made of one-third dough, one-third butter and one-third sugar — no wonder I liked it instantly. The best comparison I can think of is it is the very best part of an almond croissant. To counter this delicacy, we had the Balthazar breakfast salad (avocado, bacon, egg, quinoa, spinach, tomatoes). We also ordered the cafe latte 'bowl' — large enough for two to share. 2033 011155
4-6 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HZ

Ben's Cookies (Multiple) — Known for their chunks not chips philosophy, it is rare I pass by without taking a box of chewy cookies homes. What makes them delicious is that each shop bakes them on site and it is not unusual for them to be boxed up warm. In addition to the UK, they now have expanded to overseas locations, including Bangkok, Dubai, New York, Singapore and even South Korea.

The Hummingbird Bakery (Multiple) — Hummingbird Bakery bills itself as baking ‘authentic American cakes and desserts’. Indeed the portions are US sizes. They have huge cupcakes with black bottom, cookies and cream and red velvet varieties being family favorites. They also offer dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan cupcake varieties. Best of all you can have have them delivered to your door.

Konditor & Cook (Multiple) — Bakers to rock stars and royalty, Konditor & Cook are famous for their 'contemporary and witty cakes'. However, their decadent brownies are not to be missed. Our family favorites include: Boston (cranberry), Curly Whirly (vanilla cream cheese) and Fudgepacker (vanilla fudge with salted caramel). They claim to be the 'best brownies in London' and we agree! You can pick up four large squares for £10 at their shop or bake them at home following recipes from their cookbook, Konditor & Cook: Deservedly Legendary Baking.

Monty Bo Jangles Truffle Bar (Reigate) — A list would not be complete without mention of these award-winning French cocoa dusted truffles. A limited selection is available from local grocery stores, specialty shops and on-line. The full array can be found at their first and only retail shop and truffle bar in Reigate. The truffle sampler selection (choice of six) and crumpets drizzled with truffles are perfect for sharing. 2086 685261
57 High Street, Reigate, RH2 9AE

Udderlicious (Multiple) —When is the last time you walked by an ice cream shop in February and had to go in? This independent ice cream parlour* lets customers vote each month which 20+ flavours* are stocked in their freezers. As a bit of an ice cream-oholic, I can attest to the fact I haven't seen or tasted many of the unusual flavour combinations: builders tea and digestives, lychee and lemongrass, pomegranate and vodka, rhubarb and fig to name a few. Fortunately, you can taste before you buy and enjoy what you choose on a charming wooden swing — just right for two.

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Pancake Day

Known as Mardi Gras or 'Fat Tuesday' in the US

Pancake Day falls on Shrove Tuesday (February 13th), the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent (a period of 40 days of fasting). Traditionally, pancakes are an ideal way to use up fatty ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar.

In the UK, Pancake Day has grown in popularity and even features running in races in fancy dress* while flipping pancakes. Places to get your sweet or savory pancake fix, if 
you are more about eating versus racing:
  • Breakfast Club (Multiple)
  • Chiltern Firehouse (London)
  • Christopher's (London)
  • Crepeaffaire (Multiple)
  • The Delaunay (London)
  • Farm Girl Cafe (London)
  • The Original Maids of Honour (Kew)
  • Riding House Cafe (London)
Luckily, pancakes can be enjoyed year-round at these establishments!

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