A Family Mini-Break at The Goodwood Hotel

The Goodwood Hotel, Chichester

For me, one of the biggest challenges of freelance life is taking time off. When you work for yourself, there’s no one to pick up the slack while you’re away and there’s certainly no holiday pay. However, I’m determined not to get sucked into a lifestyle where running my own business means never taking a break. Working flat-out until retirement simply doesn’t appeal.

While lengthy trips are definitely out of the question right now, we’re learning to make the most of mini-breaks. It’s amazing how restorative one night away can be, especially if you factor in the odd indulgence.

Last week, we ended the half term holiday on a high by accepting an invitation to stay at The Goodwood Hotel near Chichester. Set in the heart of the Goodwood Estate on the glorious Sussex Downs, this privately owned hotel won us over with its luxurious feel and family friendly atmosphere.The Goodwood Hotel, Chichester

Arriving in Chichester by train, we took a short taxi ride to the hotel before checking in a little after 2pm. Service at the hotel was impeccable from the moment we arrived. Throughout our entire stay the staff succeeded in making us feel as if nothing was too much trouble.

It’s the first time we’ve had the pleasure of interconnecting rooms at a hotel, a feature that’s definitely the holy grail of family holidays as far as I’m concerned. Anyone who’s spent the evening hiding in an en suite bathroom, waiting for their children to drift off so they can creep back to their own bed, probably to watch TV with the volume so low it’s barely audible, will know where I’m coming from.

Tucking the children in at the end of the night and retreating to our own space next door was heavenly, especially as the rooms were so beautifully presented. Think elegant, dark wood furniture set against a soothing Farrow & Ball colour scheme. The soft, sumptuous beds were topped with cosy, textured throws while an eclectic array of books called out to be read from a nearby window sill. Wrapped up in a hotel bathrobe, I felt cocooned, content and incredibly relaxed. Golf Coaching at The GoodwoodHotelGolf Coaching at The Goodwood Hotel

This well-earned rest came at the end of a busy afternoon with a packed itinerary.

First, the children were treated to a junior golf lesson at the nearby Golf Academy. Their coach, Kerry Knowles, was fabulous and they enjoyed every minute. It would seem Izzy’s a bit of a natural!Golf Coaching at The Goodwood HotelGolf Coaching at The Goodwood HotelGolf Coaching at The Goodwood HotelGolf Coaching at The Goodwood Hotel

After learning the basics, tweaking their technique and hitting a few balls about the place, they were also given the opportunity to try football golf. They had masses of fun.

The whole thing was an amazing experience for them both and something I’m pretty sure they’ll remember forever. They returned with rosy cheeks and enormous smiles.Golf Coaching at The Goodwood Hotel

Not being particularly sporty myself, I decided to leave the others to it on the golf course and head to the hotel’s Health Club for a pedicure at The Waterbeach. My treatment was perfect and I immediately wished I’d had the foresight to book in for a massage too.

Once the kids had enjoyed a quick dip in the hotel pool, we all headed back to the room to relax a little before dinner. Still damp from the shower, the children wrapped themselves up in their enormous bathrobes and watched TV in bed while we opened a bottle of wine next door.  The Goodwood Hotel, Chichester

I only have good things to say about the food we sampled that night. From the bread and olives we shared at the start to the sticky toffee pudding that completed our meal, everything at The Goodwood Bar and Grill exceeded our expectations.

The children’s menu was equally impressive with a variety of different elements that they could pick and choose to create their perfect dish. The atmosphere in the restaurant was wonderful too. While it was laid back enough for us to feel comfortable eating with the kids, the elegance of the food and overall attention to detail made our visit feel like a special occasion in its own right.

Dinner was delicious, but the meal the children were most excited about was breakfast the following morning. It didn’t disappoint.

The Goodwood Hotel, Chichester

While I filled up on Eggs Benedict and multiple cups of tea, Jesse tucked into a bowl of cereal followed by egg and soldiers. Izzy demolished a vegetarian cooked breakfast before heading back to the buffet for a croissant or two. I swear my children have hollow legs.

With a few hours to kill before our train home, we spent the rest of the day outdoors taking a tour of nearby Home Farm and enjoying the beautiful scenery while we still could.Home Farm at The Goodwood Hotel

I found learning about the farm quite fascinating and the kids loved exploring the surrounding woodlands. Seeing brand new baby lambs was also a delight. I’m just glad I remembered to pack my wellys. A farmyard is no place for high heels. Lambing at The Goodwood HotelHome Farm at The Goodwood Hotel

As you can imagine, we were all reluctant to leave when the time came. Maybe one night away isn’t quite enough after all!

During the Easter holidays, the hotel is offering three nights for the price of two on selected dates, plus children under 6 can eat for free in The Goodwood Bar and Grill.  They’ll also be hosting a packed programme of family activities, including Mini Cooper driving sessions, a junior golf academy, farm tours, lamb feeding and Easter craft activities. There are a number of woodland adventures to look forward to, such as a Gruffalo hunt, Harry Potter wizard school, a teddy bear’s picnic and Minecraft den building.

The offer is available from 28 March to 30 April, excluding the Easter weekend (3-6 April). Golf tuition starts at £20 for a half-day session including all equipment and the other activities may also incur a small fee. You can find more information about Easter Escapes at The Goodwood Hotel here. The Goodwood Hotel, Chichester

Goodwood was certainly good for my soul. I’d love to go back another time and stay a little longer. Where would you recommend for our next mini-break?

Love Audrey xxx

We were guests of The Goodwood Hotel, but all opinions are my own.

A Feast for Chinese New Year with John Lewis Cook Edition

Asian Style Salmon Noodles

While I wouldn’t say we’ve ever really ‘celebrated’ Chinese New Year together as a family, we do enjoy making the most of the opportunity to indulge our love of asian inspired food.

Sharing a meal is a great way to introduce another culture to the children and the perfect opportunity to talk through the stories and traditions associated with the celebration. A Family Feast for Chinese New Year with John Lewis

Last weekend, I created an entire feast around a single recipe from John Lewis Cook Edition, a quarterly food magazine that’s available for free via the App Store and Google play store.

The publication is full of beautiful photography and food styling, as well as countless ideas for cooking and entertaining in the home. I’m quite keen to make the apple, cardamom and clementine sponge pudding featured on the back page! Homemade Chinese Spring Rolls

Preparing Vegetable Spring Rolls by Ching He Huang was a new experience for me and a task that definitely falls beyond the realms of my usual cooking repertoire. I tend to avoid fiddly food and I’d certainly never deep-fried anything before, but I very much enjoyed getting to grips with this recipe.

I found dropping the raw rolls into boiling hot oil a slightly nerve-racking experience, but the end result made it all worthwhile as they tasted better than anything I’ve ever had from the supermarket or a takeaway. I felt quite proud of myself as the family tucked in! Homemade Chinese Spring RollsHomemade Chinese Spring Rolls

The rest of my menu included Asian-Style Salmon Noodles and a refreshing Bean Sprout Salad, both dishes adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. It’s colourful, flavoursome food at its best, the kind of cooking I’m crazy about.

The salad makes a tasty light lunch on its own and if you’re not in the mood for a full-on feast, you can serve the salmon noodles solo too.

Bean Sprout Salad Bean Sprout Salad for Chinese New Year

You will need:

  • A large bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g of bean sprouts
  • 100g cashew nuts
  • runny honey, for drizzling
  • 1/2 a fresh red chilli
  • 300g mango chunks
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • 1 lime

1. Pluck the leaves from the coriander and place them in a large bowl. Finely slice the stalks and add them to the bowl with the bean sprouts.

2. Place the cashews and a lug of olive oil in a frying pan on a low heat. Leave to toast, tossing occasionally until golden. Remove the pan from the heat, add a good drizzle of runny honey then toss and set aside.

3. Finely slice the chilli. Add this to the salad along with the mango. Tip the honey-toasted cashews over the top before dressing the lot with lugs of soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil and the juice of 1 lime. Toss everything together with your hands, being careful in case the nuts are still hot.

Asian-Style Salmon NoodlesAsian Style Salmon Noodles

You will need:

{for the salmon}

  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 a fresh red chilli
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 limes
  • 4 salmon fillets, skin on, scaled and pin-boned
  • Chinese five-spice

{for the noodles}

  • 4 spring onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice
  • 3 tsp cornflour
  • 900ml of vegetable stock
  • 200g sugar snap peas
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • 200g dried fine egg noodles

1. Peel and roughly chop the ginger, garlic and red onion. Place in a liquidiser with the chilli and the soy sauce. Squeeze in the juice of both limes and blitz to a slurry. Taste to check the balance of sweet and salty, then cover the base of an earthenware dish or tin that will snuggly fit the salmon. Add a couple of lugs of olive oil and gently place th salmon atop, skin side up. Sprinkle a little Chinese five-spice and black pepper over th skin and slide it into the oven on the top shelf for 18 minutes or until perfectly cooked through.

2. As the salmon nears the end of its cooking time, trim and finely slice the spring onions, placing them into a pan on a medium heat with a good lug of olive oil. Add the garlic and ginger, mix well and cook for another 30 seconds or so.

3. Stir the five-spice and cornflour into the pan. Pour in the stock and add the sugar snaps. Turn the heat up to high, bring to the boil, then taste and correct the seasoning with soy sauce. Add the noodles, turn the heat down and pop the lid on.

4. When everything’s ready to serve, divide the noodles and their broth between bowls. Top each one with a piece of salmon and some spoonfuls of delicious sauce from the roasting tin.    Asian Style Salmon Noodles

Do you love Asian inspired food? Any recipes you think I should try? What should I deep fry next? Don’t forget to tell me if you give any of these dishes a whirl!

Love Audrey xxx

This post was produced in collaboration with John Lewis who provided the kitchen equipment and ingredients needed to prepare my feast.

My weekend has mainly been spent…

Bean Sprout SaladLove Audrey Franky and IzzyLove Audrey Pizza Express Cabot Circus Love Audrey Talent Show

  • Silently cursing my neighbour for waking me up when he started tinkering with his van on the driveway outside.
  • Gazing up at the ceiling.
  • Wishing I could drift back off to sleep again.
  • Listening to Jesse clamber out of bed next door.
  • Peeling back the bed covers so he could join me for a cuddle.
  • Creeping downstairs to watch a movie with him while the others slept on.
  • Polishing off a huge mug of tea.
  • Exchanging Valentine’s Day cards with Mr. LA in the kitchen.
  • Sneaking two envelopes on to the doormat in the hallway when the children weren’t looking.
  • Feigning ignorance as they did their best to identify their secret admirers.
  • Making scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.
  • Slipping into the shower while the children played.
  • Pulling on my clothes and twisting my wet hair into a messy bun.
  • Looking forward to a day without makeup as I slathered on my moisturiser.
  • Pottering in the kitchen. I spent most of the morning working on a little food story. I hope you’ll all enjoy it when I get round to sharing it later this week. That bean sprout salad is all kinds of delicious.
  • Panicking as the sky clouded over and I began to lose the natural light I needed for my photos.
  • Falling in love with Mr. LA a little more as I watched him fashion a makeshift reflector from tin foil.
  • Relishing a few firsts. My first time making spring rolls from scratch and my first time deep-frying anything at all. It was fun.
  • Tucking into the food we’d spent so long preparing.
  • Feeling full.
  • Pausing for a cup of tea before tackling the mountain of dirty dishes I’d created in the kitchen.
  • Whiling away the rest of the day with movies, games and a few household chores.
  • Making the children cheesy pasta for their tea.
  • Plunging them into the bath.
  • Reading bedtime stories and giving goodnight kisses.
  • Settling down for dinner with my love.
  • Drinking too much red wine.
  • Watching Before You Go To Sleep, a superbly chilling film with stellar performances from both Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.
  • Collapsing into bed.
  • Waking up with a hint of a hangover.
  • Slipping downstairs with Jesse for a mug of tea and a cuddle on the sofa.
  • Slowly getting ready to face the day.
  • Heading into town for a mooch around the shops.
  • Stopping for hot chocolate and a stroopwafel in Starbucks.
  • Helping Izzy spend some of her birthday money in Waterstones.
  • Window shopping and mentally wish listing. You always see things you want when you’ve barely a penny to your name, don’t you?!
  • Treating the children to lunch at the new Pizza Express in Cabot Circus.
  • Deciding their Carbonara Pizza might just be the greatest culinary invention of all time.
  • Coming dangerously close to falling into a pizza coma. So sleepy, so full.
  • Wending our way home.
  • Snoozing on the sofa.
  • Being called upstairs to watch the children’s latest talent show in Izzy’s bedroom.
  • Admiring Jesse’s handwritten sign announcing their performance. ‘Welcome to our talent show, it will begin at half past ten’.
  • Slurping my mug of tea as they entertained me with their singing and dancing.
  • Somehow finding the energy to make supper.
  • Stir frying leftover veg.
  • Surviving the usual mealtime madness.
  • Putting Jesse to bed while Izzy raged about something or other. It’s hard being ten years old.
  • Retreating downstairs.
  • Letting the peace and quiet wash over me as I settled down to write this post.
  • Hoping half term goes off without a hitch.

Love Audrey xxx

Izzy’s Perfect Parisian Party

Paris Eiffel Tower Caramel Cake

I don’t know how or why, but Isabel fell in love with Paris a long time ago. To be more specific, she fell in love with the idea of Paris. After all, she’s never actually been! We hope to rectify this one day and I cannot wait to see her face when she finally visits the locations and landmarks that have captured her imagination so completely.

Her request for a Paris themed party to celebrate her 10th birthday came as no surprise. Resolute in her aversion to the colour pink, we found little inspiration online, but quickly settled on an opulent gold colour scheme after bagging a bevy of bargainous party supplies in the Paperchase sale! A flash of red, white and blue completed the look.Paris Themed Party

Aside from the birthday girl herself, the star of the party was definitely the incredible sequin tablecloth we hired from Pudding Bridge. It sparkled brilliantly, dazzling our young guests and creating an air of effortless glamour as they all settled down for their party tea. Izzy was thrilled!

Confetti balloons from Bubblegum Balloons, streamers from Pearl & Earl and pinwheels from Party Pieces provided additional decoration, along with a few of those giant helium balloons I can never seem to resist.Paris Themed Party

Izzy chose a few games for her friends to play. Pin the French flag on the Eiffel Tower {skilfully drawn by my sister’s boyfriend, Andrew} was particularly popular. We laid out some colouring sheets for the girls as they arrived, half expecting them to deem the task too childish, but they all sat around drawing quite happily.

I kept the food fairly simple, using mini croissants to make sandwiches while also providing the usual party fare like crisps and cocktail sausages. For added decadence, we popped the cork on a bottle of nonalcoholic sparkling wine. Convinced I was serving Champagne, the children thought this was a fabulous touch. I promised them the real deal in 8 years time. Now there’s a scary thought!

I made a batch of vanilla cupcakes that I was able to decorate using an amazing kit sourced from The Rustic Rabbit. The mini Moulin Rouge might just be the cutest cupcake topper I’ve ever seen!     Paris Cupcakes Paris Cupcakes

Izzy’s birthday cake took the form of a caramel layer cake topped with crushed Daim bars. It was heavenly {even if I do say so myself}!

The gold glitter Eiffel Tower cake topper was from Miss Sarah Cake on Etsy. Paris Themed Party

Opting for favours over traditional party bags, I enlisted the help of another colleague from the wedding industry, Anna Tyler Cakes. The stunning iced biscuits she created exceeded my expectations and I was delighted to discover they tasted as good as they looked!Paris Themed Party

Considering I was emerging from a stressful few days and running on very little sleep, I think everything came together brilliantly. I did have a lot of help from my family though, I’m not sure I could have done it without them!

Most importantly, Izzy was over the moon. Her friends certainly seemed to enjoy themselves too. As my little girl careers towards her teen years at alarming speed, I’m not sure how many times I’ll get to throw her a party like this again. Having said that, she’s already asking for a Japanese theme next year…

Love Audrey xxx

Heal’s Modern Craft Market

Heal's Modern Craft Market

Last week, I was kindly invited to the launch of Heal’s Modern Craft Market. I don’t often make the long trip to London these days, but I was eager to attend. It might sound strange, but the shop, located on Tottenham Court Road, holds a very special place in my heart.

Back in 2001, my dad was treated for leukemia at UCH, a mere stone’s throw away from the 200-year-old store. During his lengthy and occasionally traumatic admissions, I would often seek solace beyond the confines of the hospital. Wandering aimlessly, I window shopped to calm my nerves, blocking out whatever I’d left behind.

Despite the bustling crowds, Heal’s always felt calm and serene. Basking in the natural light that flooded in through huge windows at the front of the store, I would amble about in a daze, immediately soothed by the abundance of beautiful objects on display. Dedicated to iconic design and luxury materials, it provided the perfect antidote to the harsh, ugly reality of a busy cancer ward.

Until recently, I’d had no cause to visit in almost a decade, but I’ve never forgotten the respite Heal’s provided during some of my darkest hours. It was wonderful to be given the opportunity to see the store in a new light and visit on much, much happier terms.

Celebrating the best in contemporary crafts, the Modern Craft Market showcases an eclectic array of collectibles while also hosting live workshops that utilise exciting new materials and processes. Like any super cool, mega trendy blogger, I took my mum and my best friend along for moral support.Heal's Mirror Selfie

We thoroughly enjoyed perusing the various displays on the ground floor, as well as meeting and chatting with the artisans whose work had been handpicked for the event. The free-flowing bubbly and the opportunity to browse the store in its entirety was also gratefully received!

Aside from everything in the lighting department, it was the vintage inspired prints and paper produced by Hector & Haddock that truly stole my heart. You can be sure this punchy neon pink ‘Poppycock’ print will find its way into my home eventually. Hector & Haddock Neon Pink Poppycock Print

We watched Thomas Appleton carve letters into stone and Stephanie Hosmer as she worked on an intricate papercut. Their skill and attention to detail made me wish I could make it to one of the many workshops taking place before the event finishes for another year.

Instead, as the space grew more and more crowded, we slipped away in search of an evening meal, walking briskly towards Charlotte Street and the promise of Italian food accompanied by a little too much red wine!

Heal’s Modern Craft Market is taking place until 15th February at Heal’s, 196 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7LQ. Do pop along if you’re looking for something fun and inspiring to do in the capital this week.

Love Audrey xxx

Birthday Letters for Isabel

Love Audrey Birthday Letters for Isabel

Dear Izzy,

You’re in double digits now. Ten sounds so grown up. The memory of meeting you for the very first time is so fresh, the mess and magic of it all so vivid in my mind, I can hardly believe a decade has passed.

Dear Izzy,

I sense something new, something different, in the air. When everything is peaceful and still, I swear I can see you transforming before my very eyes. We’ve been here in the past, together on the brink of great change. I’ve come to realise that motherhood is littered with moments like this. Just as everything begins to feel familiar, my life can be turned upside down as I watch you drift into the next stage of childhood. It can be hard to stand back and let it happen, but I know I must.

Love Audrey Weekend

Dear Izzy,

Stay passionate. I love your enthusiasm for life and the things you love. You don’t just read a book, you devour it. It’s never just a story you’re writing, it’s a novel, a play or the prose you are sure will make you famous. Nothing ever feels mundane or ordinary. Whether you’re tasting food for the first time or visiting somewhere new, you do it all with such joy.

Dear Izzy,

Growing up is hard to do. Fitting in can feel like the most important thing in the world, even if it comes at great expense. I’ve watched you struggle with this already and I know there’s more to come. All you can do is try to stay true to who you are and what you believe in.

Charmouth Beach Dorset

Dear Izzy,

Keep trying new things. Be fearless. I can hardly believe how sporty you’re becoming, but I’ve enjoyed watching you fall in love with both judo and netball. I have such admiration for your energy and enthusiasm.

Dear Izzy,

Your dedication to theatre and the performing arts remains a constant in our lives. Maybe one day I’ll learn not to cry whenever I see you on stage, but until then your obvious natural talent and unwavering desire to learn will continue to make my heart sing.

Dear Izzy,

Keep that fire in your belly. I’m sure it’ll give me sleepless nights and countless grey hairs in years to come, but you’ll need it if you’re going to chase those dreams.

2015-02-03_0002

Dear Izzy,

Know that we love you. Always, and no matter what.

Happy birthday baby girl.

Love Audrey xxx

PS. This post was partly inspired by the beautiful letters Emily Quinton writes to her children on their birthdays. You can read my previous birthday letters here, here and here.