Slowing Down for Winter?
One of the things I look forward to during the quieter, cooler months of November and December is the occasional indulgent beauty treatment (one does like to look one’s best with the social season coming up) . There isn’t the choice of salons down here that there is, say, in London but I was recently introduced to an interesting new skincare range, Oceopin, that utilises the oil from the local maritime pine or pinus pinaster, a tree that grows on the sandy coastal soils south of Bordeaux; it apparently needs only the sun to grow but boasts exceptional Delta 5 fatty acids, vitamin E and polyphenols, one of the richest of vegetable oils well-known for its restructuring, soothing and anti-wrinkle properties. Committed to the issues of biodiversity, sustainable development of the fragile forest environment Oceopin products deliberately use fewer ingredients to produce more benefits and come in no-nonsense packaging which I love. My personal tip is to add a few drops of your favourite essential oil (my preference is rose) to lift their delicious creams to the heights of much more expensive skin care products. Go on, you’re worth it…..
We are delighted to say that both our textile workshops next year are beginning to fill up nicely. We still have a few places left if you hurry, as well as space on our Blues & Boogie Weekends and The Laugh Lab, both very different but incredibly creative and entertaining events. The former would make a terrific Christmas gift for enthusiastic amateur and aspiring musicians - with group masterclasses and private tuition an option in addition to the three concerts. And the latter event would be perfect for a centre-of-attention-avoidance-friend or family member. The actor, Chris Grimes, who leads InstantWit’s Laughter Lab is also an internationally established facilitator and coach (he’s just back from Australia!) who has made it his mission to explore the underlying technique, usefulness and just plain enjoyment of comedy improvisation - along with its “yes and...” mindset - and how it affects decision making & creativity. Disciplines and discoveries that artists of every genre will find enormously beneficial.
According to ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, there are three types of friendships – friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships of the good. The Stoics deem this last type of friendship as the most important and virtuous. True friends are those with whom you have deep, personal and supportive relationships with mutual interests and experiences in common, the sort of special friendships in fact that we know from the feedback that we get, as well as personal experience, are formed so often at our workshops proving that he textile, comedy and musical events offer so much more than a lesson or two about a favourite or aspirational hobby.
We always like to leave a little hand-made welcome gift on each guest’s bed when they arrive for a workshop and are often asked if it’s possible to purchase an “extra” to take home. Sadly the answer is usually no as we generally only make enough for each workshop, but during the quiet months since our last workshop we have been busy making up next year's offerings and have a few to spare. For anyone interested they can be found on our brand new SHOP page! We’ll try to upload more as time allows and hope to add a few brocante items which we think might be of interest. Meanwhile, we've aded variously priced gift tokens that can be put towards an event at Les Soeurs Anglaises that you or a friend or relative would like to attend.
We are very lucky to have some exceptional artists living and working in this part of south west France, one of whom is the talented Liza Hirst. Born to a German mother and English father, Liza has been painting on and off for thirty years and has resettled in the Dordogne after a short sebbatical in the UK. Since 2006 she has been producing "Daily Paintings" but she also creates more substantial paintings as well as prints, books, agendas, cards and other items depicting her work, many of which are available on her website.
Holes and tears in jeans might be de rigeur these days but give me a beautifully darned garment with no unnecessary flesh showing any day of the week. Little wonder then that I am very much looking forward to the return of Celia Pym next year to lead a workshop, A Quiet Adventure alongside the ebullient Julie Arkell. Celia is a textile artist who employs mending to communicate, usually through favourite garments of clothing. Having studied sculpture at Harvard, obtained a diploma of education at University College London and an MA in constructed textiles at the Royal College of Art, London, she then went on in her early 30s to train as a nurse. She believes that the process of repairing a treasured garment is a form of nurturing and that it is easier to communicate through an object when discussing loss with a stranger. Time, she says, is visible in a person’s clothing, and repairing it is essentially about preserving a relationship. And that it can be a thing of beauty, raising the spirits, doesn't hurt of course...
Down here, March usually marks the end of Spring and the beginning of a new season for us, and next year we plan to celebrate with a concert by the super-talented young Dutch pianist, Cyrill Ibrahim, co-founder of The World Harmony Orchestra, an ensemble of professional and international musicians based in London which raises awareness for humanitarian causes. As well as collaborating with renowned pianists such as Maria João Pires, Peter Jablonski, Peter Donohoe and Steven Osborne, Cyrill has spoken at the Dutch Parliament on the affect of Brexit on the Arts and given numerous performances and interviews for the BBC.
Over the weekend of the 30th March he will be giving a public recital of Chopin and Debussy for us, but he will also be around to discuss his musical philosophy,play pieces informally and socialise with “weekenders” (i.e. those booking for the whole weekend), betwixt and between the gourmet meals and wine tastings we are planning. If you would like to join us for the weekend you can book on our webpage; or if you’re in the locality and would like to buy tickets for the concert only they are now available at Eventbrite. Do let us know if you come across any difficulties.
Cooking for large numbers can sometimes be challenging for those who aren’t used to it. Luckily we have a our friendly super-chef, Louise Pickford, around the corner to help us out with regular cookery classes and helpful hints. Louise has written numerous books on the subject as is a regular contributor to International gourmet magazines…. she will be leading a weekend workshop in June next year when she will be sharing her wealth of cooking and styling experience. The cherry on the cake (no pun intended) is that she will be leading a weekend workshop for us in June next year when she will be sharing her wealth of cooking and food styling experience. In the meantime, here is her recipe for almost-too-pretty-to-eat ...
Passion Fruit Shortbread Snowflakes
Delicate shortbread cookies flavoured with passion fruit make a pretty Christmas gift that can also be used to decorate the tree – only if you don’t eat them first of course! Makes: 30-40
225 g unsalted butter, softened
115 g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
225 g plain flour
125 g rice flour, plus extra for rolling
75ml passion fruit pulp
a pinch of salt
100 g white chocolate, melted
snowflake or star cooker cutters
Preheat the oven to 190c/Gas 5. Line two large baking trays with baking paper. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and process until pale and creamy. Sift in the flour and rice flour. Add the passion fruit pulp and salt and process briefly until the ingredients just come together. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface (using rice flour) and knead gently to form soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes to firm it up.Divide dough into quarters. Dust each side with a little rice flour. Roll out between 2 sheets of baking paper until 2.5 mm thick, sprinkling with extra rice flour if dough gets sticky. Stamp out snowflakes or stars and carefully transfer to the prepared trays. Re-roll twice more. Bake in batches for about 10 minutes until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes on trays and then transfer to a wire rack to go cold. Dip a teaspoon into the melted chocolate. Drizzle back and forth over the cookies. Leaved to set for 1 hour on baking paper. Wrap cookies in gift boxes.
In the meantime, let us be amongst the first to wish you a gentle and stress-free month ahead whatever you have planned and we very much look forward to meeting some of you in the New Year.