October 02, 2012

Life in England: So Far

It’s been more than three months since we arrived to live in England for our “creative sabbatical” and to be honest I feel like things are just starting to get creative. The summer was filled up with house guests and travel and family time, but now that the kids are settling back into school, I have had some time to find a routine and get a sense of what “real life” will be like for me here. Even though I am really just at the beginning, I already know I am incredibly happy here.

The stark contrast to my regular life in New York City is evident in just about everything I do – taking the kids to and from school, having the time to make three delicious meals a day (now wondering if those size 34 Celine pants still fit…hmmm….), going on hours-long horseback rides, having just a few great friends instead of a million acquaintances, and living amongst animals, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. There are also the things that take some getting used to – I am terrified at night when my husband is traveling (Blair Witch Project thoughts come roaring into my head), the electricity can randomly turn off for hours at a time, and with all the mud around from the ever-present English rain, it is just not possible to keep anything clean – the car, the house and the bottoms of my jeans are constantly covered in caked mud. I even found caked mud on one of my bed pillows yesterday. No idea how to got there. I also seem to be finding it difficult to adjust to regular car driving – I have run out of gas on a remote country road twice since I got here. Regardless of the ups and downs, family life just fundamentally feels as it should be. Now let’s see if it all feels so right in the middle of February when its dark by 3:30 pm and raining for days on end!
This is the view from my kitchen sink. We live in a farmyard, which is total chaos – tractors, hay bales, old equipment, workmen, cars, horse trailers – but our garden is my little patch of calm and beauty. Its the only place where I actually enjoy doing the dishes.
The weather changes so quickly in England, and its typical to have a rainy, cloudy day followed by just enough clearing in the evening to go for a walk and watch a spectacular sunset. When the weather is good here, you have to find a way to get outside and enjoy it because you don’t know when you’ll get the next chance.


Our garden was so spectacular when we first arrived in June, but by mid-July it was looking pretty much over. It’s so sad to think you wait all year for the flowers to be in bloom, and then they last such a short time. Anyway when we arrived back here after being away for most of August, the entire garden had had a late summer revival. What a relief! I must remember to plant more July-blooming flowers in the spring.


Our dog Ginger lives for following us on horse back rides. Sometimes we cover miles and miles, mostly cantering. I don’t know how she keeps up. On a recent ride though, I noticed she cut across a field and took a short cut home. I guess she finally found her limit.
I saw this sign at a friend’s house (made by her 8 year old) and thought it was so charming. It has now come in handy, as one of our chickens was eaten this past weekend by a Dalmation walking by on the bridle path. If it were up to me I would contain the chickens to the side yard – it would leave them plenty of space to run around. But my husband just loves having them running all over the place, which unfortunately sometimes means them running into the house. Not so charming when they poop on our sisal rug.


Hot air balloons pass over the farm regularly. I’m trying to get my nerve up to do it. I think it would be so incredible to see our part of the world from above.
The car-boot sales here are incredible! By the way, car-boot refers to the trunk of your car – so its a bunch of cars lined up selling things out of it – kind of like a flea market mixed with a tailgate party. I really loved this military hat with all the pins and I’m kicking myself for not buying it. What was I thinking?


My husband is such a country boy – its hard to imagine that he ever chose to live in New York City for 20 years! He is outside all day here mowing, ploughing, building walls, digging trenches, trimming hedges, weeding, planting, composting, designing outbuildings, etc. And you can’t believe the gear he wears to do all these chores. Coco was mortified when he showed up at school in a boiler jumpsuit the other day. He even has a full HazMat get up! When I get enough pictures I just might have to do a post on it.


There is so much about the English countryside that is completely timeless. This picture of our picnic at a friend’s lake just about sums it up.
Last Friday I took Ginger out for a walk and discovered the holy grail of blackberry bushes. Although I was tempted to go at it then and there, I knew it would be so great for the kids to see in all its glory. So Coco and I woke up early on Saturday and picked and picked until we had three huge bowls of them. One bowl got eaten right away, another went into a pie, and the third was given as a present to friends that were having us over for lunch that day.
I love this Pony Club mantra from Coco’s camp. The formality in England makes my kids take everything more seriously. It seems to be really good for them. You should see how their table manners have improved since they started their new school. They even eat fruit with a knife and fork!


Nothing makes me happier than to see my kids empowered by the adrenaline rush of being outdoors and able to run free.
The produce here is ridiculously good. Except cherries. The English don’t seem to appreciate a firm cherry. Soon I will do a separate post just on food.


My favorite car-boot sale purchase. Got the whole thing for 20 pounds (30 something dollars!).


This is the entrance to the farm via the bridle path, which used to be a road. It’s my favorite place to ride, mostly because Ginger goes berserk running through the wheat. She disappears into it and then jumps up like a deer, only appearing sporadically. It makes everyone giggle. The reason the pillars are so formal (atypical for a farm) is because our farm used to belong to a very formal house next door.
Three years ago we moved the tack room. The old one was such a time capsule, decorated with rosettes from Christopher and his siblings’ childhood days. It was so sad to see it dismantled. This is the beginning of our next generation rosette wall in the new tack room.


Coco and her beloved pony Polo. She always wanted to spend more time in England and to me this symbolizes her victory cheer.


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7 years 8 months ago

I have just discovered your blog and I love your thoughts and photos regarding England. I too am living outside of the states and I can relate to what you describe as slowing down, having more time (to cook). All the best, Shelly

8 years 18 days ago

Every single one of these photos is amazing.. I absolutely love NYC but I could totally see why you would want to spend a year in the English countryside!

8 years 18 days ago

Sounds super gushy, so i'll get it out of ten way..I Check everyday to see of you have a new post!! ..phew ,there said that finally!
I love your take on style- so beautiful to see style covering fashion, outdoors, home, friends and celebrities…truly, your view on style is so timeless…love your blog! ..(will stop now,,feel gush attack coming on again:)

8 years 19 days ago

Love this post! So full of real details I can totally relate to in many ways, but from a Swedish perspective. Caroline

8 years 19 days ago

Readen from Paris where I live, your posts are a breath of nature, life and elegance.