A Day in the Life: Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK

Every year for as long as I can remember myself and my family have visit Waddesdon manor to see the annual Christmas display, during December. For the last 5 years the East and Bachelor’s Wing have been decorated to reflect the five European cities in which the founding sons of the Rothschild dynasty made their fortunes. Over the last few years the house decorations have transported visitors through Frankfurt, Naples, Paris, London, and concluding this year in Vienna, Austria.

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Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bought the Waddesdon estate in 1874, when it was nothing but farmland. He employed French architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur to design a country retreat in the style of a Loire châteaux, and work began in 1877. The bachelor’s wing was completed in 1880, and the main part of the house in 1883. However, Ferdinand soon realised the house was too small for all his guests and he decided to build a west wing – finishing the morning room, and two bedroom suites in 1891. Ferdinand’s sister, Alice de Rothschild inherited Waddesdon when he died in 1898. She is often remembered for her strict housekeeping which has ensured the preservation of the extensive and beautiful collection throughout the house. In 1922 when Alice died the estate was passed to her Parisian great nephew James de Rothschild and his English wife Dorothy. During the Second World War, James and Dorothy moved into the bachelor’s wing, leaving the main house to children evacuated from London. After the war, James became increasingly ill and decided to leave the estate to The National Trust, appointing his wife as the chair of the management committee and supplying a very large endowment. This funding has enabled restoration to numerous parts of the house and gardens since 1959. Initially overseen by Dorothy de Rothschild and then by Lord Rothschild after 1988. Work still continues throughout the estate, from the aviary to the coach house and stables.

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 010Architectural features on the front entrance to the manor 

As I live nearby it only takes around 50 minutes by car (Via the A40 and A41) and there is plenty of free parking inside the estate. Previously parking was along the main road through the estate, and visitors would then need to walk up to the manor by foot. However, this year a new parking area has been built near the bottom of the estate, with regular buses to take visitors up to the manor as well as coach house and stables. In the winter months parking on the main road could be very difficult especially if the weather was bad, so I think the building of designated parking was a really good idea. The bus we traveled on was very comfortable and took us up to the end of the main drive in only a few minutes.

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 009Interesting twisted drainpipes around the right side of the manor

Waddesdon manor and gardens are decorated for Christmas from the 13th November to 1st January and are open Wednesday to Sunday 11am-4pm. Tickets for house admission can be pre-booked, which is definitely recommended over Christmas and Bank Holidays as it can get very busy. You can of course purchase tickets on the day of your visit, and for garden visits you aren’t likely to need to pre-book (Prices are available here). As we are members of The National Trust, admission is free to both the house and gardens.

Currently, the grounds are home to a collection of six large outdoor art installations by British light artist Bruce Munro, entitled Winter Light. You are able to view the installations at any time by following the trail around the gardens, however each afternoon from 3-5pm they are illuminated. There are also several late night openings, from 3-8pm. Unfortunately we visited too early to see the installations illuminated, but I really enjoyed reading about the story and construction behind each. I would really like to see the illuminations, especially the installations: River of Light and Parliament of Owls. If you can’t visit in person, or miss the illumination I would definitely recommend watching this video of the collection in action.

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 108Parliament of Owls

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 109River of Light

This year the manor showcases the city of Vienna in Austria where the creator of Waddesdon himself Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild spent time during his youth. Every year as part of the Christmas trail, 6 letters are placed throughout the house, which spell out a famous city related to the themed country.

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Inside the manor, you begin your tour in the entrance room, which introduces the current theme, before heading left through the hallway and ascending the stairs. One of my favourite parts in the hallway is the intricate elephant clock usually found between two towering Christmas trees.

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The stairs at Waddesdon are some of the most interesting I have ever seen, and when standing out front you can see that they mirror each other on each side of the manor. As you climb the stairs, look out for the seasonal foliage decorated with gingerbread ornaments – which smell delicious 🙂

When you reach the top of the stairs, you enter a hallway with a large decorated tree before heading into another two rooms. The first contains a large tree decorated with ornaments inspired by the artist, Gustav Klimt (In particular his famous work – ‘The Kiss’).

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One of mine and my dad’s favourite paintings is also hung in this room, which illustrates the romantic relationship between a man, and what can be assumed is his wife and mistress/lover.

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As you move into the next room, the main focal point is the beautiful court dress and train made in Vienna and worn by Rozsika Rothschild (1870-1940), grandmother of the present Lord Rothschild.

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Moving back out into the hallway, you then head to the right into a room whose decoration are inspired by the Austrian crystal company, Swaroksi. I particularly enjoyed seeing the resident exploding porcelain china chandelier, entitled ‘Porca Miseria’ (1994), whose title roughly translates as ‘Damn it!’.

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From here you move through a long hallway and down circular stairs before reaching the bachelor’s wing. This section of the manor is decorated with a book/film or story linked to the overall house theme. This year it is inspired by ‘The Sound of Music’, and was decorated with musical notes, tea pots, mittens, bells and an old bicycle. I really enjoyed this theme, especially the unique ornaments.

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 046Bright Copper Kettles

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 047Warm Woolen Mittens

21st December 2013 - Waddesdon Manor 049Sleigh Bells

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Moving through the bachelor’s wing, you can explore the hallway as well as the billiards’s and men’s smoking room. The smoking room is one of my favourite rooms, however it is not usually open for exploring inside. This year the room was open and with a large tree covered in snow globe decorations, which was really good to see.

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Continuing down the hall, you can visit a small bathroom and two bedrooms to the right, one of which contained the dress uniform worn by Baron James de Rothschild (1792-1868) as Consul General of Austria.

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This year a table was set up here displaying a large collection of snow globes, which were all very beautiful and lovely to see up close. The last room open for Christmas is at the end of the hall, and this year contains traditional dress for boys and girls in Austria.

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Once you have finished upstairs you can then walk down a small set of stone stairs to the original kitchens and servants quarters (Make sure to have a look around the stairwell at the decorations!).

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Downstairs the long hallway to the restaurant is fully decked out with Austrian ornaments and Christmas decorations, including: Snow globes, birds, dried citrus fruit and glass icicles. From here you can look around the gift shop before exiting in front of the woodland walk which takes you down to the coach house and stables.

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I really enjoy the woodland walk which takes you down to the coach house and stables past reindeer sculptures made from twigs, lights, bells and real antlers. When you reach the bottom of the walk, you will find yourself behind the coach house and stables. Throughout these buildings you will find a sweet/gift shop, restaurant and a gallery which is also decorated for Christmas. This year it is a decorated walk through a winter woodland, with reindeer, sledge and woodland animals.

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If you get the chance definitely explore the wine cellar under the manor, the tented cafe and aviary within the surrounding gardens. The aviary is another of my favourite parts of the estate, particularly the collection of beautiful and interesting birds. I also really love the colourful lanterns that hang inside the tented cafe to the left of the manor.

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I have and do visit at other times of the year, but I really love visiting Waddesdon manor at Christmas. I would definitely recommend visiting if you get the opportunity, as the decorations and ornaments are always so beautiful and unique. I am looking forward to visiting next year as Waddesdon has now concluded the five European cities themes, so it will be interesting to see what they do for next year’s theme!

A Day in the Life…

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A Craft in the Life: Woodland Wreath

During December I love looking at the interesting and unique wreaths on front doors when ever I am out walking. I particularly like to see those which are clearly handmade of fresh foliage and seasonal decorations. I have always wanted to make my own wreath and after collecting some seasonal foliage on a walk in Oxfordshire I decided to give it a go. I didn’t follow any particular method, just from my own experiences and wreaths I have seen being made before.

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Woodland Wreath

You will need:

1-2 Bendy Twigs/Sticks

Seasonal Foliage (I used Leylandii as a base then added pieces of Norwegian spruce/fir)

Seasonal Decorations (Large and small pine cones, holly leaves and berries)

Cinnamon sticks/dried citrus fruit (Such as oranges/lemons/limes, or maybe smaller versions of my Orange and Clove Pomander)

Thin Wire/Twine/String

Ribbon

Let’s get started!

  • Start by using one twig and bending it gently into the shape you wish your wreath to be (I decided to only use 1 twig and create a circle shaped wreath).

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  • You can secure your wreath with wire/twine or string, or like me you can just tuck the ends into the shape you have already created.
  • Once bound you can then begin to add the base foliage to the wreath’s ‘skeleton’.
  • I started with leylandii as it has lots of good green foliage that covers the wreath well and is easy to work with (I tried to use minimal binding material, so I pushed the end of each sprig into the wreath ‘skeleton’ before wrapping the sprig around and tucking it in again).

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  • Once I had added enough leylandii to cover the wreath ‘skeleton’, I added some sprigs of Norwegian spruce/fir before tidying up the foliage by tucking in and trimming sections.

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  • You can then decorate with pine cones, holly leaves/berries and anything else you like! (Again I tried to use as little binding material as possible, however for the large pine cones and cinnamon stick I used some wire).

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  • As you add more foliage and decoration definitely decide which way you want your wreath to be and hang/hold it up as this will change how your wreath looks.

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  • Once finished you can use ribbon to hang up your wreath where ever you like.
  • You are all done! 🙂

wreath

Wreaths are of course usually seen as being just for Christmas, however I think this wreath would be beautiful anytime of the year made from seasonal foliage and decorations. It was much easier and quicker than I thought it would be to make, however it is very easy to find yourself spending longer especially when it comes to adding final decorations and tidying. You can use what ever foliage and decorations you can find, which makes it both very seasonal and easy to personalise. If you wanted you could also spray paint some pine cones with white/silver/gold paint, or add some glitter. I’m really proud of the final results and I would definitely recommend making your own!

A Craft in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Lincoln Christmas Market

When I first moved to Lincoln, one of the things I was most excited to experience was the annual Christmas market. Originally started in 1982 when Lincoln became twinned with the German town Neustadt, it was the first traditional German market to be held in the UK. At this time the market only consisted of 11 stalls, and often these stall holders travelled all the way from Neustadt to sell their traditional German crafts, food and drink. Nowadays there are more than 250 stalls, with the number and variety growing more every year – but the German stall holders are still there too!

market - grimsbyChristmas market with Lincoln cathedral behind (Grimsby Telegraph, 2013)

The market usually runs over 4 days in December – Thursday to Sunday. This year: Thursday 5th December 12pm – 9.30pm, Friday 6th December 10am – 9.30pm, Saturday 7th December 10am – 9.30pm and Sunday 8th December 10am – 7pm. I have been visiting every year since my first Christmas here in 2010 and I haven’t been disappointed yet! This year my parents decided to come to Lincoln so that we could explore the market together, which was really good fun 🙂

We decided to visit on Friday night as previously when we have visited on a Saturday night and it was so busy we couldn’t enjoy ourselves as much. The market was just busy enough to create a good atmosphere but wasn’t so busy that we couldn’t see each stall, which was perfect.

Lincoln Christmas Market

Your visit to the market always begins with the famous walk up Steep Hill (Unless you choose to take one of the scheduled buses). During Christmas market week most of the shops in Lincoln have extended opening hours so you can begin enjoying the variety of gifts available as soon as you reach the city. The individual and quirky shops on Steep Hill are probably some of my favourite in Lincoln and are definitely worth a visit if you haven’t seen them before – or even if you have! As you reach the top of the hill you begin to see the stalls set up in the courtyard between the castle and cathedral. There are of course plenty of places to stop and have a drink or something to eat, including but not limited to: The Magna Carta, Wig and Mitre and Widow Cullen’s.

steep hill - BBCSteep Hill decorated for Christmas (BBC Lincolnshire, 2008

This year there were a few stalls selling mulled wine/cider and cheese (A staple at the Christmas market!) as well as one offering traditional German gluhwein. A German style mulled wine, whose name roughly translates as glow wine due to the look of the hot irons originally used to make it.

Towards the entrance of the castle on your left you will find the food tent, which has been in the same location for the last few years. Along with the usual food, this year there was a stall selling traditional Spanish churros. If you read my Ribs ‘n’ Bibs post you will remember me missing out on trying churros due to my excessive consumption of pulled pork – so naturally I was in the queue quicker than you can say YES PLEASE. Safe to say they were delicious especially as they came sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and a pot of Belgium chocolate.

We then moved through into the castle grounds where stalls are arranged on either side of the designated pathway. There were a large selection of stalls – hand carved wooden gifts, strawberry and champagne cheese, novelty beers/ales and traditional Christmas puddings! We also stopped to have a mulled wine from a stall ran by a large band of monks, which was very good!

As you move out of the castle, look out for Castle Gate Indian restaurant on the left as their food is amazing and they sometimes have a stall outside. There is also usually a stall here which sells beautiful coloured star lamp shades that are really worth a look at. You can then cross over the road into the buildings and grounds of the Charlotte Hotel and Lawn. This year a collection of arts and crafts stalls were set up inside the large hall, which were all really interesting and unique. I particularly enjoyed the candle stall, Christmas themed liquors and coffees!

star lamps croppedStar lamp shade stall (Lincolnshire Echo, 2012)

After leaving here you then head into a large marquee which has a selection of stalls from flavoured oils to handmade home ware items. You can then move into a series of tents which are mostly food based, including a tapas style selection, ostrich burgers and roasted chestnuts. Next you can head along the side of the castle grounds past several individual tents which are all really worth a look. Especially the stall selling orange, lime, lemon and spiced wreaths and decorations – which I can never resist.

Here you will also find the ride section of the market, including a huge ferris wheel which has beautiful views out over Lincoln if you are brave enough to ride it as it is very tall! From this point onwards there is one more tent before you head back towards the courtyard outside the cathedral. If you haven’t visited Lincoln before, I would definitely recommend turning left here and having a look around and inside the cathedral.

ferris wheelFerris wheel from below taken by my good friend Kieran Broadbridge

I love the Christmas market and if you can make it to at least one you definitely should! Give yourself plenty of time to explore every part of the market as it really is worth the time, especially for the stalls with beautifully handmade gifts. A very important part of visiting the Christmas is trying every free sample you can get your hands on, so make sure you do 🙂

A Day in the Life…

A Craft in the Life: Amaretto and Cherry Fudge

I really enjoyed making fudge last month, and I have been thinking about what other flavours I could try out. Whenever I visit fudge shops I love looking at interesting flavours they have available, one of the most unusual I have seen was watermelon – which was delicious! I decided I definitely wanted to use cherries, but I wanted to add another dimension so I decided to add a splash of amaretto liquor as well.

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Amaretto and Cherry Fudge

You will need:

Ingredients as in my peanut butter fudge post

Replace peanut butter with 1 tbps of amaretto liquor and 3oz/85g of chopped cherries

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Let’s get started!

  • Follow the recipe in my peanut butter fudge post, removing the peanut butter and instead adding in the amaretto liquor when you add the sugar to the melted butter/milk.
  • Once boiled and poured into the icing sugar add the chopped cherries and complete as before.

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I am really happy with how this fudge turned out, the texture is solid to the touch but crumbly when eaten. The cherries give the fudge an interesting taste when combined with the amaretto liquor, which is perfect for enjoying around Christmas or anytime of the year! It also makes a good last minute Christmas gift wrapped up with a handwritten label. I would definitely recommend trying out this combination as it is simple and easy to change from the original recipe. I can’t wait to try out more new flavours soon 🙂

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A Craft in the Life…

A Craft in the Life: Orange and Clove Pomander

Now I am back home in Witney for the Christmas holidays nothings gets me more in the Christmas spirit than working on all things Christmassy! As well as putting up Christmas decorations that we have had for years, I have also been making some of my own handmade decorations. After a suggestion from my mum I decided to have a go at making very traditional orange and clove pomanders. Although I’m pretty sure everyone made one when they were in Primary school, this is the first time I have made one since then!

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Christmas Orange and Clove Pomander

You will need:

Large oranges (How many will depend on how many you want to make! You can use smaller oranges/clementines/satsumas however the skin may be thinner and cloves will go through into the fruit)

Jar of Cloves

Pins

Ribbon

Cocktail sticks

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Let’s get started!

  • Start by selecting your orange, ribbon and a cocktail stick.
  • You can use your selected ribbon to decide where you would like to place your cloves. Once you have decided where you want your cloves to go, you can mask the area off using masking tape as a guide.
  • Alternatively you can just do it free hand – which is what I choose to do.
  • Using your cocktail stick pierce the skin of the orange in your desired pattern leaving a small gap between each as the fruit will shrink when dried (I decided to try two designs, one in a cross and the second half a cross).

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  • Once completed and happy with the placement of the holes, insert the cloves.

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  • When you have finished, you can either get the oranges fresh and re attach your ribbon or you can dry them out to make them last longer.

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  • To dry them out, preheat an oven to a very low setting – 130ºC/250ºF/Gas Mark ½.

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  • Remove the ribbon/masking tape and dry out in the oven on a wire rack for 5-6 hours – checking occasionally to make sure they aren’t cooking!
  • If you have time and plan in advance you can also dry them out in a loosely closed paper bag in a warm dry place for 3-4 weeks.
  • Once dried, re attach the ribbon using pins to hold.

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  • You can create a bow or loop for hanging and can also attach cinnamon sticks/star anise for more Christmas scent and decoration.
  • You are all done! 🙂

I really enjoyed making these pomanders! They are simple to make, make everything smell amazing and look really great around the house or on the Christmas tree. Everything you need for this craft is fairly cheap and easy to find – you can find oranges, cocktail sticks and spices in most supermarkets and you can just use scrap/recycled ribbon. The only part which takes time is drying them out, however once you get them in the oven you only need to check them occasionally so they are pretty low maintenance. You can of course change up the fruit you use, maybe keeping to citrus fruits (Lemons, Limes/etc) and change the spices (Cinnamon, Star anise/etc). I would definitely recommend giving this craft a go!

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A Craft in the Life…