Tuesday, 14 October 2014

About Fathers and Daughters. And Husbands and Wives.

It is hard to switch off these days. A quick check of Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and one is presented with a million interesting photos and stories, let alone friends' updates and invites. A couple of days ago a link to a Huffington Post story caught my eyes and I have found myself thinking about it a lot.

The story is called '15 Things All Dads of Daughters Should Know' by Justin Ricklefs, a father of four girls and a boy. Now that Little G is 4 - yes, this happened last week - I keep thinking about how she sees Mr H and I and if she will in fact base her future relationships on ours. It is an utterly scary thought. Yet one that creeps up in my mind now that she notices more things and she asks more questions.

We all want our kids to grow up feeling loved, secure and content, but I often forget that she should also understand that she is not the centre of everyone's world, or at least not at all times. Justin Ricklefs goes as far as saying "Love your wife, make time to date her, take her on trips, and show your kids that she is a bigger priority than they are". 

I thought hard about this one, but ultimately I think he is right. One day my Little G will be all grown up and I'd like her to expect that much from her partner. I want for her to find someone who loves her unconditionally and above all else. 

I have a couple of friends who are forever settling for the next guy, rather than hanging out for 'the' guy and so they waste their years in broken relationships that they are trying to make work when they were shaky from the outset. Of course all relationships have ups and downs, but I want Miss G to be choosy, to not settle for anything less than real love.

And now the pressure is all on Mr H and I to show her how to make each other the biggest priority so that one day she'll expect no less than that of her own partner. As parents we often forget that we are a couple first and parents next. As much as my husband often drives me crazy like nobody else in the world can, I also know that he is the one that I want to share my life with. Call me a masochist, but there we go.

As for Mr Ricklefs suggesting that Mr H has an influence on Little G's future partner...holy shit, the pressure is on you, my dear husband! If in 20 years time she brings home some loser I know who I'll take it up with... #joking #notjoking

These two jokers! They drive me nuts, but they are my world.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A very fine day

Sunday was yet another sunny and hot day in London. It started at the park where we met my good friend Kari and her family. Miss G is very fond of Kari's sweet and funny son, but this time she was in for an additional treat in the form of their two adorable schnauzer dogs. Needless to say, the kids loved hanging around in the park together, playing dog walkers and running around with the dogs.

Luckily for us the day was going to actually get even better thanks to an event organised by The Little White Company at the Electric cinema in Notting Hill. I confess that, as a Londoner, Notting Hill does not have a huge appeal to me (too many tourists), but the Electric cinema is one of my favourite movie theatres in London. It has comfy seating, tasty food, an interesting crowd and it makes you feel as if you stepped back in time when a night at the movie was indeed a charming way to have a date.

The Little White Company made it even more magical by scattering fluffy polar bears and penguins around the seats as well as soft pillows and wonderful throws from their new Autumn bedroom range. Miss G went straight for the circus range, which was also my favourite thanks to the cute - but not 'too-cute' - animal motifs. The movie of choice was of course Disney Frozen, every child's favourite, with the added bonus of copious amount of popcorn and orange juice. Miss G was in actual heaven and it was as if I did not exist for a whole two hours.

So whilst she watched the movie and inhaled the popcorn I relaxed in my armchair, caught up on some reading and admin whilst sipping coffee. 

The bliss that ensued reminded me of how lucky we are to live in a city like London where we are very much spoilt for choice when it comes to fun venues that cater for both the kids and the grown up in equal measure. 

A quick hop on the 31 bus and we were home with a new soft monkey friend and the nicest pillowcase courtesy of the Little White Company. After a quick bath and dinner, Miss G soon proceeded to strip one of my pillows of its case and placed her 'Nelly cushion' at the centre of her little den where she then demanded that I read her and monkey some books before going to sleep. 

I guess some Sundays are so good that they are worth blogging about. And if you are in London, Sunday or not, do check out the Electric cinema, it won't disappoint you. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Puglia. Go before the crowd finds out!

Italy has so many beautiful regions that one could spend years holidaying there whilst always discovering something new. Whilst Tuscany, Umbria, the Amalfi Coast, the lakes and Sardinia are firmly on the map of many tourists from all over the world, Puglia is not yet there, which is why NOW is the time to go. 

Italians have rediscovered this magical and historical land in the past few years and all my friends have caught the Puglia bug, so of course I wanted to check out what the fuss is all about. And, let me tell you, I am an utter convert of the incredible beauty of this land. 

Puglia is a region in the South of Italy and its lower part, the Salento forms the heel of the Italian 'boot'. The north of Puglia has been on the tourist map for a while thanks to the white villages of Ostuni and Martina Franca and the conical shaped trulli buildings in Alberobello, but the south of Puglia, the Salento is virtually unknown to many tourists and travel operators. Yet. 

The best way to get there is to fly to Bari or Brindisi airport. The latter is closer to the Salento area, but it also entails flying Ryanair. You choose. 

Once you mentally get around the fact that summer is very hot in Puglia and that its people are hardly ever in a rush to do anything, you can begin to factor some minor inefficiency in the ways things are run, but, trust me, make peace with it and relax. The beauty of Puglia is worth it. 

In an ideal world, we would have stayed in a masseria which are old farmhouses that are scattered all over Puglia, some still fairly basics, some much more luxurious than others. They tend to be in the inland and surrounded but nothing else than olive trees until the eye can see. The last minute nature of our trip and the unfortunate mid-August timing when all of Italy is on holiday meant that finding a room in a masseria was impossible. It does not help that most masserie are not on travel sites. They expect you to call and book the room directly with them and do a bank transfer (!) to their Italian account rather than simply hand over your credit card details. 

Yes, not all of Puglia - especially the Salento- is yet geared up for tourists as the rest of Italy, but hey, that's the price of going somewhere before the rest of the world does. Luckily we found a small boutique hotel called Giardino dei Pini that, despite not being historical as a masseria would have been, was in fact very pleasant and clean. It has only 18 mini apartments and a big pool, so the H household was happy after all. 

The other advantage of the hotel is that it is only a 5 minutes drive from Torre San Giovanni where it is easy to find nice restaurants in the evening and even some funfair rides for the little Miss. And the evenings in Salento are just as good as the days as the food is utterly delicious and very reasonably priced. One of the typical dishes, homemade orecchiette pasta, was a huge hit with Little G and she literally couldn't get tired of it.

If one has to find some criticism I would say that some more variety in the food offering would be welcome. During our week in Salento we went to nice restaurants as well as more relaxed ones, yet the menu was fairly similar in all the establishments. Pasta - especially orecchiette and trofie - was ubiquitous. Fried or grilled fish came in as the most popular second option with pizza often being the alternative. Some culinary variety might be appreciated, but when the ingredients are fresh and local, one can't complain too much about pasta, pizza and fish. It is Italy after all. 

Nice restaurants, even the reasonably priced ones, are better booked in advance or one risks not finding a table. The highlights for us were Ristorante Portovento in Torre San Giovanni where we had candlelight dinner on the beach, barefoot obviously. If a secluded beach at night was impressive, especially for Little G who loved walking around with a lantern, the charming setting of Il Mulino di Alcantara in Felline was even more impressive to us. As one of my followers on IG commented, it was like being on the set of the Mamma Mia movie.

The restaurant is in the middle of a small hilltop village square surrounded by old stone buildings and with the stars for a roof. Not a bad way to spend an evening. The food fare was as delicious as the settings with local ingredients cooked in a simple fashion but with impeccable taste. 

Puglia presents the visitor with kilometres and kilometres of olive groves and old stone houses and walls. Scattered throughout the inland are incredibly charming villages often entirely built with with the traditional local stone. Some of these places are true architectural and historical gems and well worthy of a visit, but it was simply too hot when we were there and the other famous Salento attraction was calling for us...its incredible beaches. More on them very soon. 


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