Fish and Spices–the Wet Market in Phuket



This woman was everything, everything

Dear hearts. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I killed some pixels in the service of this blog.

I have no truly compelling excuse, but have been busy with a new freelance job researching and writing a weekly travel post for Seattle Refined  (all enticing ideas for travel which will appeal to a Pacific Northwest audience gratefully  received).

Then most of October seemed to be swallowed up by a two week trip to Thailand, and the resultant packing, unpacking and crippling jetlag. Brace yourselves now for total Thai overload. I am totally, ridiculously obsessed with the country, its people and dear god, the food.  

Just to whet your appetite, I attended the magnificent Blue Elephant cooking school in Phuket Town on the last day of my trip and part of the class involved a brisk walk round the most fabulous wet market. We only had half an hour or so here as part of our workshop, which was tragic really, as I could easily have photographed here all day, every day for the rest of my life and not got bored.

All human, and, so it seems, aquatic, life is here, chaps, and I learned much about Thailand and its people.


I learned that smiling is Thailand’s national sport and the Thai people are Olympic-level practitioners.


Possibly because their babies are Olympic-levels of cute.


Though I wasn’t quite sure about this comedy tee-shirt ( and neither, it seems, were they).


I learned that Thais are also quite amazingly beautiful.





As is their seafood.



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They enjoy hacking at things with big cleavers.

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Yes, that is a frog.

They will eat all parts of an animal (as is only right and proper).



Yes, that is blood. 

And they are somewhat fond of chillies in all their forms.



And there is no such thing as too many coconuts.


I would give my eye teeth (if I knew what they were) to be able to shop in a market like that every day. Wouldn’t you?

Come and visit the markets of Campo de’ Fiori, Rome and the Cote d’Azur with me. Markets make me happy.


Looking for Orcas in the San Juans



This weekend we were dropping the Minx off for an eleven day camp at magical Canoe Island in the San Juan Islands, a couple of hours north west of Seattle (overnight camp!!!) and decided to make a weekend of it. On a bit of whim, we booked ourselves on a whalewatching trip to see the islands’ pods of resident orcas. Long time readers of this blog may remember that we’ve been twice before and not spotted even the fin of a single whale -  the mythical orcas were obviously a figment of the Washington Tourist Board’s imagination.

We set off on a glorious afternoon through the beds of bull kelp.


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The Husband and the Minx were excited.


We spotted bald eagles


and very charming seals


and other whalewatching boats (always a good sign).


And then, behold! A fin!


In fact several fins.



Coming closer


and closer



until, peekaboo I see you!


Wildlife photography is HARD, people! The boat is always gently rocking, the boats are not permitted to get too close, and those pesky whales would pop up and disappear when you were least expecting it. These pics are the best out of dozens and dozens I took, of several different orcas. Male orcas have straight side fins and females have curved ones, and that’s mostly all you get to to see.


We also had the company of a whitesided dolphin who kept racing our boat before moving over to the side to breathe. Our captain was really excited by this as apparently they’re rare in the San Juans and it was the first he had seen all year.


The movement blur on the below was unintentional but I like it…



After a while the dolphin spurned us, to go and play with one of the orcas! I would have loved to have had an underwater camera at this point.



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After that we headed back to Eastsound, and into the most glorious sunset. The stunning beauty of the day and of those playful giants of the ocean will live for a long time in my mind. Sometimes magical is not a strong enough word. How lucky we were.










Seattle Urban Campfire


I just wanted to mention a fabulous event happening in Seattle next week, featuring two amazing women I’ve come to know and love in the past year.


The two quotes above are from Susan Hyatt whom I have been honoured to have as my life coach over this past year. We’re not quite finished yet but already the changes in my life have been profound and meaningful. I sort of started life coaching on a whim, but I truly would recommend it to anybody who wants to get the best out of life. As you know I’m not a very woo-woo sort of person, but it really has been immensely valuable. Who knew?  (And Susan herself is a darling and a walking talking inspiration to all busy enterpreneurial women out there).

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Susan is just one of many incredible women speaking at this year’s Urban Campfire in Seattle organised by the phenomenal Melody Biringer.  I met Melody properly last year at Camp Mighty, though she’s been big news on the Seattle and nationwide networking scenes for a long time as the founder of CRAVE. Here’s an interview with Melody, conducted last year before the first Urban Campfire, and here’s the list of speakers she’s gathered together for this year’s event.

Fortunately, given what she does, Melody is very fond of s’mores.

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I’d love to catch up at Urban Campfire if you’re going. Let me know in the comments or buy your tickets here.


Whitney English Day Designer


Dashing in quickly just to tell you all how an item of stationery is in the process of changing my life. Yes, I am a very sad person. But a new edition goes on sale tomorrow and I think you ought to buy it.

The Whitney English Day Designer already has a bit of a cult following among creative entrepreneurs and rightly so. The first ever planner designed specifically for us, the thought and care which has gone into every page is evident and heartwarming.


Yes, that says “The Strategic Planner & Daily Agenda for living a WELL-DESIGNED LIFE”. See you’re inspired already. And yes, it is beautifully designed.

I know I’m already very late to this party, but I came across the planner on Instagram a couple of months back and was lucky enough to snag one of the very last available August 2014 – August 2015 planners. Tomorrow on August 15th planners for the calendar year January 2015- 2016 go on sale and I’d hate to see you miss out. Get in fast, these babies sell like hot cakes. Or like hot planners.

Anyway, here’s why I’m in love with this wonderful piece of technology.

The planner comes in a sturdy ring binder with a useful inside pocket, gold protected corners and comes packaged with a pink velveteen ribbon that also serves as a bookmark. My office manager Joan Holloway certainly approves.


The first page gives you space to picture your vision and dreams and think about your passions, powers, principles and purpose. The planner comes with a code for a free downloadable e-book to help you decide what to put here, which I found really helpful.

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Then you use the work you’ve done in defining your ‘core’ to inform yearly goal setting, which then gets broken up into 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and 12 month goals for different areas of your life. If I get anywhere close to reaching these goals this year I will probably die of excitement. And yes, I have been colour-coding things using the official recommended pens (I do feel like I’ve joined some sort of cult). 


Then you can set goals and big to dos for each month as well as viewing your month at glance. Aside from the colour-coded pens, I have also become the sort of person who washi tapes their planner. There really is no hope.

There’s a ‘year at a glance’ page too, in case you’re running out of places to put washi tape.


Once you have your month beautifully planned there’s a whole page for each day, including spaces to put your to dos for that day and daily schedule. There’s a ‘Download’ section for notes (I use it to write a brief summary of my day), a place for a daily gratitude which is rather lovely, and somewhere to write what’s for dinner, which is obviously critical. There’s space to write your top 3 to dos for the day and each day also has an inspirational quote.


In short, I shall henceforth be leading the mostly perfectly designed, organised and inspired life. Which really makes this planner very good value for money.

Get your January planner in the Whitney English Etsy shop this very morning.


Colours, Cabbages and Cobblestones in Rome


This year we decided to start our family vacation in Rome, and I went back for the first time since working there for six months way back when.

I had lived in an apartment in Campo de’ Fiori in the heart of the medieval Centro Storico, which I adored, and this time we decided to rent a really cute Air BnB apartment in the same neighbourhood. One of the things I love most about Campo de’ Fiori is the magnificent market which fills the piazza every morning and is a paradise for food and street photography. It was great just to hang out in the mornings watching the stallholders and restaurant owners set up, before the serious sightseeing of the day began.


Come for a little walk with me through the twisty streets of Rome and the market of Campo de’ Fiori.


Our apartment was in this little cobbled street between Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Farnese.


Fountain in Piazza Farnese


We breakfasted every morning in the Caffe Farnese, five minutes from our apartment. Here is the Minx writing her vacation journal (she became markedly less diligent the further we got into our holiday).


The market was a delight.



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Campo de’ Fiori means ‘field of flowers’ and that still rings true today.




Rome was gripped by World Cup fever when we arrived, which lasted only until Italy’s ignominious defeat at the hands, or more accurately teeth, of Uruguay, which we watched in one of the open air restaurants in the piazza.


Even my old friend, the statue of Giordano Bruno, which gazes out over the piazza at the site where he was burned to death, was subdued that evening.


Unfortunately I made a terrible parenting mistake by buying Mission Rome for the Minx. It’s a sightseeing scavenger hunt book which I thought would keep the Minx vaguely amused if we took in a few sights.

Instead I refer to the review of the book I wrote on Amazon. My love/hate relationship with this book runs very deep.

Do not on any account by this book! *****

If you want to have a pleasant, relaxing, wine-fuelled Roman interlude that is… I bought this for my nine-year old daughter and then spent 3 days being marched all over Rome while she figured out every possible permutation of itinerary and points scores (also tremendously good for her math). Half of me was thrilled she was so inspired and half of me wanted to take the book to the very heart of the Colosseum (4 points), stab it, burn it and gouge its eyes out .

This book is like sightseeing crack, perfectly pitched at 3rd to 6th graders, and has pulled together some really interesting facts and cool things to locate, which kept the interest not just of my grade schooler but also of her exhausted parents. Thank goodness we only had three days to spend in Rome and very good walking shoes. Seriously you buy this book at your peril. Caveat emptor.

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Here’s the Minx scribbling in the accursed book and here’s the Husband just after telling some heinous lie to the Bocca della Verita.


I think we stopped to talk to pretty much every cat in Rome.


And, as has been the case since time immemorial, the cobbled streets of the Eternal City were filled with gladiators and nuns.


It was lovely to be back.


Weekend Link Love


Oh it’s been SO long since I did one of these.

The weather continues to be absolutely glorious in Seattle but we haven’t quite been making the most of it as both the Husband and the Minx have been down with gastric flu, while I’m just sitting here waiting to get it. Before that though it was a week of sunshine-y walks, beautiful sunsets, watermelon cocktails, paddleboarding (I’ve been taking lessons! I love it!), and delicious vegetables.

I’ve also been enjoying this lovely wire ‘bonjour’ from Anthropologie which I’ve hung in my bedroom on the wall next to my bed. It’s a bit pricey for a little thing, but it delights me every time I get up, so for me it’s worth it.  And I’ve been bowled over by my fabulous new Whitney English Day Designer planner August 2014 edition, which I’m sort of in love with. I feel like my life is going to be utterly and perfectly organised going forward, which is not too much to ask of a planner is it? (New January planners come out on August 15th and I’ll be writing a fuller review of mine before then so you can be perfectly organised too).

Here are some things I’ve noticed in my travels around the web this week.

Lakshmi at PureVege does the sort of food photography that makes my heart twist in envy and awe. Utter perfection.

As you know I’ve been doing a lot of travelling recently. Some of these fabulous travel tips could have come in very useful over the past few months.

My friend Melanie Biehle found these simple, graphic posters of cakes by UK branding agency Purpose. They make me want to make a Battenberg cake immediately (it was one of my favourite cakes as a child, and I miss them here in the US).

British author Zadie Smith gives us 10 truthful rules of writing.

Obviously I truly and desperately need a personalised rolling pin (don’t we all?)

And I am so, so, so, so, so, so, SO tempted to download the Kim Kardashian game that everyone is talking about. Have any of you tried it? How quickly will it rot my brain?

On the blog over the last week or so, I posted some more pics of Tuscany and a tribute to the chef I met there and a recipe for Mixed Fruit Clafoutis. Will try to up the bloggery over the next week or so.

How are you all enjoying your summers?


(The sun did this last night, just before sunset. I’ve never seen anything quite like it).


Tuscan Landscapes And A Small Goodbye



I  was going to move on from Tuscany with my posts this week, but my thoughts have been returning there in recent days after I received some truly awful news. Chef Enrico Casini, who brought such vivacity and personality, as well as seriously good food, to Le Casacce – the Tuscan agriturismo where the Plated Stories workshop was held – died quietly in his sleep at the weekend.



He was far too young – only sixty-two – but apparently he went with a smile on his lips, after a busy night in his restaurant, in his own little corner of paradise.


I didn’t know him well of course, but he was a man of such obvious passion and heart, such energy and kindness, such a love for his craft and the ingredients that inspired it  –  that I know he will be sorely missed as a father, friend, employer and chef. 


Every morning he would be bustling around the property, always wearing a pair of colourful glasses, and dashing in and out of his kitchen. Every afternoon he would,if he could, sit quietly in his lounger, reading the paper and gazing on the landscape for an hour or so. And every evening he would stand in his busy, laughter-filled dining room, more often than not with Barry White playing in the background, and describe the exquisite meal he’d just created in his broken English, invariably using produce ‘from this land’ and liberally garnished with ‘my olive oil’.


We would wait for those words, spoken in his inimitable way, and laugh when he got to the punchline, but underneath they spoke of a deeper truth – his abiding love of the land, of the ingredients that sprang from it and the food it inspired.


According to his obituaries, Enrico, through his many restaurants, his cooking and his food writing, was at the vanguard of the revival in cucina italiana in the 60s and 70s, focusing on traditional Roman and Tuscan recipes, using local ingredients. I feel honoured and privileged to have been able to cook with him, albeit briefly, and came away with a sheaf of notes, that I hope soon to be able convert into recipes as a proper tribute to him.


In the meantime, here are some photos of the landscape which so inspired him and informed and infused his cooking, all taken either within a few miles of Le Casacce or from the grounds of the property itself. I don’t usually feel moved to take landscapes – photos generally can never do them justice – but the land here was so beautiful I had to try (and bear in mind these photos don’t do the real landscapes justice either).


Caro Enrico, may you rest in peace, I am grateful to have met you, to have experienced the warmth and generosity of your hospitality and to have come away with some of your recipes. I so much wanted to return to Le Casacce but now it will never be the same. I will also never again be able to hear Barry White without thinking of you. Ciao, ciao.





Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse, which she ran in partnership with Enrico, is heartbroken, but soldiering on, and has confirmed that the workshops will be continuing at Le Casacce as Enrico would have wanted and as part of his legacy.


Mixed Fruit Clafoutis


Many, many eons ago, while I was studying French at university, I spent a year working as an English assistant in a couple of schools in the South West of France. Aside from this being one of the most enjoyable and formative years of my life, it was also remarkable from a culinary perspective. The other teachers were incredibly kind (mindful I think of their own time spent as French assistants in England) and would invite me often to their houses, and I also ended up giving lots of private English lessons, of the ‘chat in English to little Jean-Pierre for an hour, then join us for a dip in the pool and supper’ variety.

It was a lovely life, and also meant that I ended up dining in French people’s houses once or twice a week. Which was eye-opening. You learn a lot by seeing what people eat for reals – not in a restaurant or in a cooking class and when they’re not particularly trying to impress.

And I learned that in the South West of France, in summer, people eat a heck of a lot of clafoutis. Mostly made with cherries, but occasionally with the other stone fruits and berries of summer. And not surprisingly, because clafoutis is both super delicious and very easy to make.

If you search for ‘clafoutis’ on this blog you’ll see that it’s something I make a lot in the summer, and in fact I’ve posted the recipe before. But I made some beautiful mini mixed fruit ones last summer and never posted the pictures, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I post the recipe again, with some adaptations for minis.


First up get yourself a quantity of the most beautiful fruit you can find – cherries, apricots, currants, peaches and plums all work well. I used a mix of red and yellow cherries, apricots and redcurrants. The exact amount is a bit difficult to specify but should be enough to cover the bottom of the dishes you will be using. Clafoutis can be made in any shallow ovenproof dish. This recipe makes enough for the large dish shown here or for approximately 6 largeish ramekins.



Mixed Fruit Clafoutis
Serves 6
Mini mixed fruit version of the traditional French clafoutis
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
  1. Enough fruit to cover the bottom of your dish(es) in a single layer
  2. Enough butter to thoroughly grease your dish(es)
  3. 5 tablespoons all-purpose/plain flour
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 2 cups/500ml/16 fl oz single cream or half and half or creamy milk or a mixture of milk and heavy/double cream, depending on how decadent/slim/rich you’re feeling
  8. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  9. 2 tablespoons dark rum, kirsch, Armagnac or maraschino (optional)
  10. Enough granulated or powdered sugar to dredge thickly when cooked
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180degrees C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Remove stems and pit fruit if necessary. The French often leave the pits in cherries as they're said to add an additional almond flavour to the batter (but warn your guests!) If using apricots or larger fruits slice them in half.
  3. Slather your dish with butter and add the fruit in a single layer
  4. In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients
  5. Warm the milk or cream until barely simmering (be vigilant, it mustn't boil)
  6. Whisk the eggs into the warm cream
  7. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until well-blended
  8. Stir in the the vanilla and rum etc. if using.
  9. Strain the batter over the fruit (very often I can’t be bothered to strain it) to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. You should still be able to see the top of the fruit over the batter.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes for small clafoutis, 40 minutes for large until golden round the edges and firm to the touch
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Here are my little clafoutis showing the depth and proportion of batter to fruit you should be aiming for. Clafoutis is very forgiving, so make them in any shapes and sizes of cookware you have to hand until you have used up all your batter. 


 Here are my lovelies puffing up and firming up in the oven. 

And here they are all ready to eat. Serve with some chilled cream or creme fraiche if you’re feeling luxurious but it’s really not at all necessary. 


Dear hearts I am back!

If you haven’t been following along on Instagram (Sheesh, Paola, we have LIVES), we’ve just been on a family vacation to Rome, Sardinia, Corsica and an afternoon in England. And it was lovely. Though at the same time I am glad to be back sleeping in my very own bed for a bit and able to enjoy the rollicking Seattle summer.

I do of course have many, MANY photos to share with you, together with more from Tuscany (you didn’t think you’d be getting off THAT lightly did you?). You have been warned.


Animali Toscani


It seems in Tuscany even the animals are ridiculously photogenic and happy to strike a pose.


‘There’s a reason they call it a door FRAME’.

I’m not a huge animal person, but seemed to be followed by cute creatures everywhere I went. Not forgetting of course the infamous Socrates.


‘Looking forward to putting my feet up and watching a nice bit of telly.’


‘Around every corner is……… another corner’


Mumm-eeeeee we’re STAAAAAAARVING’



‘What was he saying about corners?’


‘I am  so, so, so, so, so, SO bored.’


‘Like REALLY bored.’


‘Like friggin’ HUMUNGOUSLY bored’


In Tuscany even the snails are cute.


‘One sheep…two sheep…three sheep….four sheep’


‘Sheesh, what do those dogs want now?’



‘I just want to lie here next to the flowers so you can take my portrait’

See also, Le Casacce, our Tuscan home from home; Tuscan street photography, Tuscan churches.


Antica Tenuta Le Casacce


Jamie and Ilva found the most stunning location for our Tuscan adventure.


The Antica Tenuta Le Casacce is an agriturismo owned by Roman chef Enrico Casini, situated near Seggiano in the glorious landscape of the Val d’Orcia, whose timeless hills and valleys are deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enrico used to run six restaurants in Rome before settling down in his beloved Tuscany and his amazing four course meals every evening were a true highlight of our stay (we also did a cooking class with him – recipes appearing on the blog shortly, yay!).


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Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse offers a selection of creative workshops in conjunction with Enrico based at Le Casacce. Retired trial lawyer Linda is warmth and generosity personified – nothing was too much trouble – and a fabulous writer, artist and photographer in her own right. Her workshops include not only first class instruction but also a number of day trips to the small hill top villages which dot the surrounding hillsides.

However, with accommodation and surroundings like this, it was nearly impossible to drag ourselves away. Come and visit this little corner of paradise. Oh and meet Socrates, the resident manic depressive donkey and star of Le Casacce.





Not a bad view from the pool.





Not a bad view from the terrace.





Here’s Jamie coaching Deepa from One Small Pot.



And here are Linda and some of the ladies working hard.




The old stone buildings were charming inside too.


Here’s the ghost of a photo studio at night.

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The Minx would have loved the wooden cats hanging out outside.



Here’s Chef Enrico presenting his incredible food.


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And here’s Ilva being Ilva.



And a couple more of Socrates gambolling in the sunset. Life is sweet at Le Casacce.



If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Tuscany, I can’t recommend Le Casacce highly enough. And Linda’s Tuscan Muse creative workshops are pretty special too, as you’ve probably already worked out.