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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From my Kitchen: Apple (and Chocolate) Muffins.


Now that apple time is here, you may like to bake these wonderful, moist muffins with a great texture and delicious taste! 
Here's the recipe for you (I have mixed up some recipes I have kept no track of) for 8 small muffins.

Ingredients:
- 225 g (8 oz) plain flour
- 1 bag baking powder or 3 teaspoons
- a pinch of salt
- 60 g (2 oz) margarine (or butter if you prefer- I always use margarine instead of butter)
- 225 g (8 oz) milk
- 2 small apples (peeled and chopped)
- 100 g (4 oz) sugar
- cinnamon to taste or half bar of milk chocolate

 Oven: 190°C/ 25 minutes

Method:
1. Preheat the oven.
2. Put 8 paper muffin cups in a muffin tin.
3. In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder. Add melted margarine + milk. Stir well, then add the chopped apples and cinnamon (or chopped chocolate, not both as for our taste).
4. Pour into the muffin cups.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes (it depends on your oven, keep an eye on them after 20 minutes!).
Enjoy!
Monica x

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

From my English Country Diary: Fields in Bloom, Part Two.

... And during the month of July, I also discovered that poppies grow so well in England, too!

 

It was the beginning of July when driving along a country road, a lot of red caught my attention... I just had to make a U turn and go back to admire all of this amazing beauty! 

Honestly, when I dreamt of living in the English countryside one day, I had no idea it was this beautiful and so exciting! I make new discoveries nearly every day...



Millions of flowers graced the fields... annoying the farmers, as I've been told, because they "damage" the harvest.


But look at their gorgeousness... it lasts less than a fortnight, and then they fade.
Especially with the hot weather we've had this past July.





I had to come back to the field to properly photograph the flowers. Even if at 9 am, I had to rush because I felt it was becoming too hot for me, even with my big, dark sunglasses and my wide- brimmed, white cotton hat. We've really had a wonderful "real" summer this year!



... So summer-y!!



In July, I also discovered there are lots of white fields full of wild daisies! My heart skips a beat every time I see them. From a distance, you just see white... 




Since five months ago or so when I moved to England, I've seen gorgeous colors in Nature!  In March, everything was white (due to the unusual cold and long Winter this year), then in Spring, the main color was yellow (of the thousands of daffodils everywhere), then blue in May with bluebells, then again white with wild daisies, red with poppies and all shades of purple with lavender. Now I cannot wait to see which colors Autumn is bringing along! Being an artist, you bet I'm excited!
Monica x

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From my English Country Diary: Fields in Bloom! (and a New Cover).

Before I show you some recent pictures I took around here, that reveal that Autumn is definitely upon us in the Cotswolds, I really wish to share another of the amazing discoveries I've made living my new country life.

I feel so lucky to have a lavender farm within easy reach from where I live, and you bet it's very exciting! Not only I do love lavender, both as scent and color, but hey, walking among a sea of purple is not something common to do (especially for someone who spent the majority of her life in an arid, urban environment dreaming of the countryside). It has been such a magical experience...

It was the very end of July and early morning when I jumped in the car, and started to drive along country roads, up and down the hills, to reach the farm, situated in Gloucestershire, at Snowshill. Lavender is usually at its peak of beauty in mid June, but this year, due to a long, cold winter, the show was postponed of an entire month.

As soon as I entered the car park, and parked my car, I saw this.


There were a couple of tractors in the field, and as they brushed against the bushes, wafts of inebriating scent reached my nose. The air was truly permeated with the sweet scent of lavender! I had never experienced anything similar before.

Magical!

Walking towards the entrance of the fields, I started to spot rows of colored lavender... And my heart started to beat truly faster. I had been at the farm previously, at the end of June, to see but the "purple haze", as they call it (just light brushstrokes of purple over the fields) because of the unusual season this year. But now, oh my! The colors were amazing.

It was sunny, with some light clouds in the sky, which worked as a photo lighting umbrella and made the light perfect to photograph the fields. The below pictures are not enhanced in any way, so you get the idea of the real color of the flowers.


And I also learnt that lavender comes in a variety of colors! From proper "lavender", to white, to pink, to purple.

Varieties of lavender have names like Granny's Bouquet, Little Lady, Little Lottie. How cute is that?


... So finally, there I was, walking among a sea of purple! I've dreamt of visiting a lavender farm forever, and now I happen to live close by! Had no idea lavender grew so well in the British Isles, as we usually think of it like something very mediterranean!

It was incredible. I stopped for quite a while in complete awe, just a few people around as it was opening time (mostly photographers with their heavy camera gears and tripods)- and total, amazing, comforting, joyous, beautiful silence


The only sounds I could hear were the happy buzz of the thousands of bees, bumblebees and all kind of insects happily flying from bush to bush, from flower to flower, and that of a few tractors working in the distance. 

Not photo edited. This is the real color!

Everywhere I could lay my eyes on to, there were millions of purple, divinely scented, flowers.




Everyone on the field seemed to experience such a joy. I couldn't help but taking a picture of this Mom and daughter walking between the rows.


They were soaking up the colors, fragrance and Beauty of that place, and nearly disappeared among lavender.


I walked slowly, completely absorbed in active meditation, and noticed every single detail, every single sound. I sniffed the air exactly as my Kim would have done. You definitely can learn a lot of things from the smell of the air! 

I then started to see there were other colors apart from purple, like the light pea green of the opposite hill, that worked as a fantastic background for all of that lavender, the antique white of the farm and the raw umber of the roof. Can you imagine how happy and inspired the inhabitants of that house must be?


And then started noticing more and more hues, and wanted to incorporate all of them in my photographs.

Why the other photographers on the fields were paying attention to the purple only? They seemed to not notice the amazing painter's palette you could admire from more unusual points of view! They were all in the middle of the fields, while of course, I took the less traveled path.



From there, the landscape looked like a painting of a Macchiaiolo painter. There were patches of lavender, with quick and heavy strokes of different shades of green, a bit of ochre and a dash of sienna...


... and the more I ventured into the fields, the more colors I noticed and the faster my heart was beating.

Then I noticed the shapes, the textures... everything was like watching the world with new eyes.


Those black spots flying in the air are just huge, happy bumblebees!

Wild daisies always remind me of my country walks with my Kim.
















I'm going to make a corner of our home "smell" of lavender with some framed prints of my photos!
After I took something like 600 photographs, I just had to take a selfie, to remember this amazing, unbelievable experience... Jumping for joy!!

Unbelievable, the first jump came out well! :)

If you are in the area, this farm at Snowshill is definitely worth a visit. I love their shop too, where they sell many products made with lavender, like natural creams and soaps, lavender sugar and teas, dried bunches, microwave pads, dried buds and on and on. I just love anything made with lavender, and had a really hard time deciding what to buy! ;)

*
And speaking of lavender, I am honored and smitten by this new cover! My Grandfather's (on my dad's side) vintage camera and a bunch of French lavender, styled over a vintage map of my huge Atlas I found in Italy a couple of years ago... chosen to grace the cover of the Washington/ E.Oregon/ S. Idaho "Antique, Vintage and Collectibles" issue of The Country Register. Isn't it just perfect as a conclusion of this post?

Thank you, The Country Register!
Monica x