The Book Hive, an independent book shop in Norwich, has won The Telegraph ‘Best Small Shops in Britain’ award. And rightly deserved too. It was a brave move deciding to set up a book shop in 2009 in the middle of a recession and closely situated to a number of well known high street book shops. However, owner Henry Layte has worked hard to gather a collection of desirable, interesting and unusual titles for both adults and children.
The Book Hive hosts many book signing events throughout the year and will be the only place where you can get a copy of Street Hunt - ‘A visual crosswod puzzle’. Street Hunt is a poem about Norfolk streets that holds the clues to missing street signs that have been removed from the accompanying photographs. Wander the streets and find the answers for a chance of winning £10,000. One thousand copies will be available from May 6th - pre-orders are available online. This event is part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival which has just announced this years line up.
This Christmas I received a beautiful powder blue milk pan made by Riess for Labour and Wait. It’s perfect for hot chocolates, morning porridge and the odd hot toddy.
Riess is a family run business that has been making a selection of kitchenware in the same hillside town in Austria, Ybbsitz, for over 200 years. Riess is now producing hydro-electic power from the stream that runs alongside the factory. The surplus electricity is then used to provide power to ten homes which are provided free of charge to the factory’s employees.
Each piece of cookware is produced and shaped from one single piece of steel in a series of pressing machines. The pots are given a black undercoat of enamel paint, (ground glass flakes), then given a coat of white before being hand sprayed with the traditional cream interior and finished with the chosen pastel exterior enamel shade. The pots are fired in a kiln after each layer of paint has been added. This quadruple firing and paint layering process helps to achieve their long lasting use and individual character and style. Available from Labour and Wait.
Armed with a surgical blade, London based visual artist Kim Rugg meticulously removes the tiny letters of a front-page broadsheet newspaper to then steadily re-assemble the letters into various visual formats - ‘removing the message but keeping the messenger’.
For a few years now, French Macaroons have been well documented on the blogasphere. I first made a batch some time ago and rather freakishly my attempts were pretty good. You see, the French Macaroon is notoriously tricky to perfect. For me it’s a bit of a Holy Grail - like achieving the perfect sourdough loaf. The many different recipes found on the web are both daunting and inspiring - it seems that I’m not alone in wanting to perfect the perfect ‘feet’, sheen, crunch and chew, that isn’t too garish in both colour and flavour (unlike the lavender ones I recently made - very Haze Air Freshener).
Over the past few weeks I have made around 350 of the dainty coloured biscuits for a big family gathering. Approximately three dozen eggs later and with fridge full of egg yolks I am quite willing to never make another macaroon again. I would however love to experience the authentic French Macaroon at the glamorous Laudree concession in Harrods or Pierre Herme’s shop in Selfridges who I first discovered through the inspiring food blog Foodbeam.
A recent annual trip to Woottens Nursery close to Southwold makes me wish I had more soil and spaces in my garden to fill. The nursery is abundant with wonderful flora including a large greenhouse full of pelagoniums, a field of bearded iris and later when in bloom, another field of Hemerocallis (Day Lilies).
Due to the lack of space in my garden I came away with just a few plants, one of them being the impressive biennial Angelica Gigas to replace the Angelica which is flowering this year. This plant looks magnificent in my garden with bundles of ball-like flowers and umbrella foliage. It towers over the grasses and leaves wonderful seed heads in the winter months. When buying plants at Woottens, you are presented with printed information on your plant purchases telling you where to plant them and how to care for them and also what looks great growing alongside them - invaluable advice.
I'm going to preserve some of the stems this week. I'm intrigued to rediscover the taste and colour of candied angelica. You can find out more about the plant from Botanical.com
"The preparation of Angelica is a small but important industry in the south of France, its cultivation being centralized in Clermont Ferrand. Fairly large quantities are purchased by confectioners and high prices are easily obtainable. The flavour of Angelica suggests that of Juniper berries, and it is largely used in combination with Juniper berries, or in partial substitution for them by gin distillers. The stem is largely used in the preparation of preserved fruits and 'confitures' generally, and is also used as an aromatic garnish by confectioners. The seeds especially, which are aromatic and bitter in taste, are employed also in alcoholic distillates, especially in the preparation of Vermouth and similar preparations, as well as in other liqueurs, notably Chartreuse."
I hadn’t realised just how awful the choice was for quality kids' bicycles until we started searching to buy an upgrade for our 6 year old. At first we were looking for something not too dissimilar to a Dutch ‘sit-up-and-beg’ bike but we found nothing. We found childrens' versions of the bikes we own and they weren't bad, but they seemed heavy and the brakes unreachable for small hands. We then discovered through various forums that Islabikes had a fantastic reputation.
"Isla has put her years of cycle design experience and practical cycling knowledge together to produce a range of exclusive bikes for children. She has searched the world for suitable tiny components, and where they have not been available has had them made.
All bikes have child specific frame geometry and a full set of proportional components, including brakes that can be operated safely with small hands. Gear ratios are carefully selected to suit the age of the child. Each bike can be customised at the point of purchase with tyres that exactly suit the intended use - you can also have a set of full mudguards and a carrier. This way each bike can be used for mountain biking and cyclo cross, as a track racing machine at your local track league, for going to school, touring holidays or days out exploring with the family."
The line-up for this year's lively 239th Norfolk & Norwich Festival is very impressive. It boasts 350 performances at 50 different venues, some of which are not usually open to the public. The festival is also billed as the International Arts Festival of the East of England - so expect a brilliantly varied choice of entertainment, including some world premieres.
It's difficult to know which events to buy tickets for, as there are circus acts, classical music, dance, jazz, street theatre and much more, and I'm hoping I've not left it too late to make my choice, as I hear tickets are selling fast.
Thankfully, not all events are ticketed. The Festival Garden Party was loved by my girls last year, and is back this year on Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th May. I'm also keen to see NoFit State Circus at Eaton Park and Kurt Perschke's 15 ft inflatable RedBall (see below). These will be squashed into 13 locations across the city during the 13 day long festival. I'm also planning to get my 6 year old daughter's hair cut by children of the same age, as part of Mammalian Diving Reflex Haircuts by Children at the stylish Flint hairdressers. It can't be worse than her 3 year old sister could do, can it?
The festival runs form 7th - 22nd May 2010. For further information and to buy tickets, visit nnf10.org.uk