Milan, You Were Really Something

16 April 2013

It's now day two back at home since our trip, yet my head in still in Milan. I'm not quite back to reality just yet. It was a wonderful city; one that we only had a quick taste of, but wow it certainly delivered all the expectations we went out there with. It was charming, elegant, stylish and full of history. Those shutters and ornate balconies gave even the most unremarkable streets character and history. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were staying at an apartment that belongs to friends who were out of the country. The apartment was stunning: it wouldn't have looked out of place in Elle Decor Italia magazine. It was vast and included, much to Lily and Arthur's delight, a playroom complete with an extensive children's DVD library. The living room had three floor-to-ceiling windows that opened out onto balconies from which we could people watch down on the street below (we were on the 3rd floor). We were well and truly in the thick of the city: the best place to be.

For the first few days, David was working during the day and evening time at the various design events dotted around the city. All was productive and enjoyable. So during those days the kids and I stayed local, finding our feet (and the local bakers and ice cream parlour). The food was a highlight for me. The breads were amazing: perfect ciabatta, wonderful cheese stuffed focaccia and the best pizza. The local supermarket was really something too - I've never seen such an array of fresh vegetables and there were two aisles dedicated to cheese alone. It wasn't a specialist or expensive shop, just the local supermarket. I just wanted to stay longer so I could continue to shop and cook.

The only tainted part of our trip was when Arthur came down with a sudden sickness bug (we were in the Science Museum at the time!). He was quite poorly for a couple of days so we were apartment bound. It was little frustrating as it meant we couldn't see all we had planned to, but he shook it off quickly and was back in the ice cream parlour before our trip was out. Below are a few snaps of our trip. They're pretty random, due to the fact that I forgot to take my camera battery charger (or spare battery) and it ran out of juice on day two. So the phone camera had to step in and do its best. If you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful city, grab it with both hands.

Next Week: Milan.

5 April 2013

We're off to Milan next week for seven days. I'm feeling quite excited, if a little unprepared. We only decided to go a couple of months ago. Normally, any trips we take are booked well in advance. The main reason for this trip is work. Milan is home to the world's biggest furniture fair, Salone Internazionale del Mobile - think a kind of 'Milan Fashion Week' for furniture and interiors. As well as the main event, there are countless satellite events throughout the cities various districts. 

It is our first trip to Milan, indeed our first trip to Italy. We toyed with making the trip alone, which would obviously make 'business' sense. We toyed with David making the trip on his own, while I stayed behind with the kids. To be honest I wasn't overly comfortable or happy with either option. The decision we finally settled upon was for us both to go with the kids in toe. This means that I won't really be able to do the business stuff. David will spend the first 48hrs of our trip attending the exhibitions and events during the day and the launch parties in the evenings. Once work has had its 48hrs or so, we can do stuff as a family. 

The real coup of this trip is that we're going to staying at my friend Sarah's city centre apartment. She moved to Milan with her husband and two young daughters just over a year ago, due to her husbands job. Since settling in her new city, Sarah has given us an open invite to visit. We all knew that the ideal time for our visit would be now. But, would you believe this; we will only see Sarah for a mere morning as she is coming back to the UK for her sisters wedding and will return to Milan the day after we leave. What bad timing! 

So, while David hangs out with the design world's movers and shakers in chic city spots, I will be exploring what cultural treats the city has to offer with Lily, Arthur, my terrible sense of direction and Sarah's recommendations. I speak no Italian, but am pretty good and communicating with gesture and expression, which will hopefully be enough to get us by. We will jump on the metro or travel by tram and get 'inside' the city. Lily wants to find the best Pesto Pasta and Arthur will be more than happy to try out the ice cream parlours. I just want to visit the food and flea markets, shop in the supermarket and people watch from an outdoor cafe, cappuccino in hand. As for the evenings, I'll happily give the swanky parties and bars a miss for a glass of wine on my friends couch reading through the pile of books that I will take with me. I'm happy with the simple life whichever city I happen to be in.

No doubt, I will come home with something to share on the blog, but until then, Ciao. x

Apricot & Almond Pastries

2 April 2013

Over the long Easter weekend, I made time to try out a few new recipes: after all it was way too cold to go out. For the second year running I made my own Hot Cross Buns - both a traditional fruit and chocolate chip version. They knock the socks off the shop bought ones I can tell you. They are, and will always be, part of my Easter baking ritual now. 

I also made these Apricot & Almond Pastries. They were super quick and easy to make. Dredged with a little icing sugar and boxed up in a cushion of coloured tissue paper, they made a nice little gift for the friends we visited on Easter Sunday. The recipe comes from my favourite magazine 'The Simple Things'. I love each and every page of it: it is as if a magazine has be written for me! I like to call it my Monocole Magazine.

Apricot & Almond Pastries

1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
125g apricot jam
Extra apricot jam for brushing
55g ground almonds
2 tbsp sugar
10g softened butter

Preheat the oven to 200C (180 fan), 400F, gas 6. 

Using a 9am cutter, cut out circles from the pastry. I managed to get 12. Place the pastry discs onto a couple of baking sheets lined with non-stick baking paper. Prick all over with a fork.

To make the frangipane mix, combine the ground almonds, sugar and butter in a bowl. Press a teaspoon or two into the centre of each pastry disc and then top with a couple of teaspoons of apricot jam.

Gently warm through a couple of dessert spoons of the apricot jam in a small pan and brush the warmed jam over each of the pastries.

Bake in the oven for 12 - 15 mins, or until golden.

Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes and then carefully move to a wire rack. Dredge with a little icing sugar should you so desire. 

Perfect to have with your morning coffee.