Wednesday, 15 August 2018


July and August brings an abundance of fruit and vegetables from the Kitchen Garden, and with the amazing never ending summer temperatures we have been having, things have been particularly prolific!  

Eating organically and local, whenever possible, has always been so important to me.....and that's really my driving force behind having my own kitchen garden.  My mother always ran a productive kitchen garden at home while I was growing up and it is something I just automatically started as a young wife and mother thirty years ago.  Starting with a modest patch at our first cottage all those years ago, and now a larger 'Potager' with raised beds, that we created ten years ago when we built our home and started developing a blank canvas of a garden.

I admit there are days when the early season preparation of back breaking digging, mulching (ok 'Mr. W' is a star when it comes to help with this!) and never ending weeding do take its toll, but are far outweighed by the wonderful satisfaction of effectively having your very own 'Farm Shop' just meters from ones back door.
Knowing that we and family and friends are eating something so pure and nutritionally bursting with goodness, is what inspires me constantly year after year to keep loving my little plot. 

This summer's high temperatures have brought the joy of eating outside almost every day in recent weeks under the cool of our vine pergola.  Salads,  light dishes of grilled fish or chicken and especially cold soups have been what we have been craving in the heatwave.

With a huge glut of daily cucumber pickings from the greenhouse, I was in search of ideas other than just using them in salads!  Amongst juicing them with celery and apple in the mornings, making this delicious chilled cucumber soup has been the perfect light and cooling lunch.

After posting this on my Instagram @sophiahomeandlifestyle recently, I received so many requests for the recipe, so here it is....super easy and no cooking required!


2 large Cucumbers, peeled 
2 cups of greek yoghurt
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 small shallot
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup dill
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
white pepper
1/2 red onion chopped
peeled prawns for garnish (optional)


In a blender, combine cucumber, yoghurt, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, dill, parsley, tarragon and olive oil.  Blend until smooth and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Serve in bowls, garnished with red onion, extra diced cucumber and a drizzle of olive oil.  A few cooked peeled prawns are optional but for me make this extra special!


Super delicious and yes, it really is that easy?!

Bon Appétit 

Sophia xx

Friday, 15 June 2018


When somewhere is described as 'The most beautiful lake in Europe', how can one resist putting it high on a travel wishlist?

Lake Orta (or Lago d'Orta) as the Italians call it, is the smallest of Northern Italy's 'Italian lakes' and is a near neighbour to Lake Maggiore in the West and is in the beautiful Piedmont region.

Lesser known, even to many Italians, Lake Orta was so named in the 16th Century, but was previously called Lago di San Giulio, after Saint Julius (4th Century) who was patron saint in the region.  Measuring just 8.3 miles long X 1.6 miles wide, with the magical small central 'island' of Isola San Giulio set in the middle.

After a rather early start (yawn!) Mr. W and I flew to Milan where it was an easy 45 minute hire car drive to San Giulio, the picture perfect small town on a peninsula projecting from the east shore of the lake.  After checking in quickly to our little hotel, lunch was our priority, so we headed around the corner to the pretty central square overlooking the water.

It was hard to believe that just a few hours earlier we had left home, and here we were sitting overlooking the most stunning lakeside view, eating a platter of delicious local Piedmont cheeses and cold meats, and sipping a glass of equally delicious local white wine.  My idea of heaven!

Beautiful mainly 17C houses line the shores of the lake, many with their charming boathouses and terraces.  

 San Giulio is a haven of pretty cobbled back streets with beautiful architecture to admire.....

Pretty courtyards...

...and romantic balconies aplenty!

A trip to San Guilio would not be complete without making the effort to make the steep climb up to 'Sacro Monte di San Francesco'....

The view alone out to Isola San Giulio is worth the climb...

...before finding Sacro Monte, an amazing collection of 20 small chapels dedicated to the life of Saint Frances.

Some chapels simple and modest, and others boasting spectacular frescoes....

Back to the water's edge, a boat trip out to Isola San Giulio was a must.  Just a few minutes across the water to this tiny island, which is home to the spectacular Basilica di San Giulio and an old seminary built in the 1840's which is home to an enclosed order of Benedictine nuns.  A request for 'quiet' while walking around the buildings and cobbled alleyways, added to the beautiful and mystical atmosphere of this holy place.

Back over to San Giulio main land, beautiful walks around the lake are perfect for 'dream house' spotting! (oh and also for walking off all the delicious pasta dishes too...)

I rather liked this beauty, right on the water's edge....just imagine taking breakfast on that balcony each morning? Sigh....

...and hopping on to your speed boat to head out for lunch across the lake?

There are a number of hotels to stay at around the lake, but for our little two day break, we stayed in a charming b&b called 'Al Dom' which felt more like a boutique hotel.  Owned and run by the charming 'Massimo' who spent five years painstakingly restoring the property a few years ago.  Original features restored throughout and lovely attention to detail.  Its lake front position was wonderful, with access to a pretty garden with sun loungers taking in the spectacular views.

A simple but stylish interior, filled with charming antique pieces....

Doors leading to a pretty outdoor courtyard garden at the back....

...with access to a private lake front garden too.  Just perfect!

Such a pretty room and this stunning view to wake up to!  The breakfasts too were just wonderful, so I would highly recommend!

These are just a few highlights of our short but sweet stay on lovely Orta.  Really very uncrowded compared to the neighbouring Lakes and unspoilt by tourism.  A truly magical place.
Only three days away, but it felt like a longer holiday!  

If you enjoy beautiful scenery,  pretty architecture, art, history, walking and good food and wine, then a visit is a must!


Wishing you all a lovely weekend,

Sophia xxx

Tuesday, 10 April 2018


Good morning!
I'm not sure where the last week vanished to, but I do hope you all had a lovely long Easter weekend?
Ours was a particularly relaxing one, with no large scale entertaining this year, so a chance to get some projects done, take things easy and of course, prepare some delicious food!

When I shared on Instagram that I was making a 'Baked cheesecake with rhubarb', I received so many messages requesting the recipe, that I promised to post it here on the blog, so here it is finally!

Taken from the March edition of 'Waitrose' magazine, I would highly recommend this delicious desert...less rich than a classic cheesecake and with the addition of tangy Spring rhubarb it is fresh and absolutely delicous.  Perfect for this time of year when the first forced rhubarb is appearing.



400g rhubarb, cut into 5cm lengths
75g caster sugar
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1tsp finely julienned fresh root ginger

125g amaretti biscuits
125g digestive biscuits
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
plus extra for greasing

4 eggs
115g caster sugar
600g ricotta
15g mascarpone
50g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest of all, plus a squeeze of juice

Preheat the oven to 160 C, gas mark 3.  For the roasted rhubarb, put all the ingredients in a roasting tin.  Stir in 3 tbsp water and toss together.  Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 mins until the rhubarb is just tender. Take out of the oven and set aside to cool in the tin.

Turn the oven up to 180 C (gas mark 4), lightly grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.  For the biscuit base, put the amaretti and digestives in a large, sealable bag and crush with a rolling pin into fine crumbs.  Tip into a bowl, add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are coated.  Transfer to the prepared tin, spread evenly over the base.  Bake for 10 mins then set aside to cool  Reduce the oven temp to 160C (gas mark 3).
For the filling, lightly beat the eggs and sugar umtil the sugar has dissolved.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well combined.  Pour over the base, then bake for 45 mins or until just set with a slight wobble in the middle.  Switch off the oven, open the door a little and leave the cheesecake to cool completely in the oven.  Serve with the rhubarb and some creme fraiche, if liked.

Bon appétit!


Sophia xx

Thursday, 5 April 2018



If someone was to ask me where my 'Spiritual Home' is, it would certainly have to be the mountains, and more specifically, the Alps.  Clean air, raw natural beauty, and mother nature at its finest.

Each year, Mr. W and I have the greatest pleasure of spending a whole week with our brood in this snowy paradise, which now they are young adults who have left home, is particularly special.  With the addition of the eldest two's other halves and a great friend of our youngest son, we are an enthusiastic party of eight who love our skiing and partying alike!

We have skied in many places over the years, but for the last few years (and no doubt for many years to come hopefully) our hearts have settled on the lovely unspoilt resort of Champoluc in Italy.  Nestled in the Aosta Valley with the magnificent Val da Ousta ski area to enjoy, it's an absolute gem.  What makes our visits so particularly special, is a magical little hotel called 'Frantze'.  

Positioned up in the mountains, high above the village, it is reached only on skis, by foot or on scadoo.  Owned by the lovely Francesca and her wonderful family, whose warmth and hospitality is beyond touching.  Each year greeting us as family and taking care of our every need.  

'Frantze le Rascard' was originally built in 1721 and the family have in recent years, lovingly and sympathetically restored this wonderful former mountain farm and hunting lodge.  Now a charming and very comfortable nine bedroom hotel, but without losing any of the original history and character of its past.

Sadly I have no photographs of the cosy bedrooms and interiors, or the charming warm dining room which is built in to the rock face or of the maginificent four course dinners prepared for us by 'Auntie' Antonella in the kitchen and served by the lovely 'Nona' Simonetta and her assistant Maddy, but I'm sure you get the picture of this very lovely and personal place.

Above is one of the unconverted outbuildings, left untouched for decades since someone once lived and worked here....if only those walls could talk?

How beautiful is this little heart shaped window in our bedroom?  Leading the eye towards the magnificent view down the valley.

The food in this region of Italy is second to none...although I think it's probably fair to say that it's probably near impossible to get a bad meal anywhere in Italy!

Lovingly hand made pasta dishes and as you can see, the most incredible charcuterie and cheese boards.  All beautiful quality local mountain cheeses and air dried meats from the Aosta Valley.

With my 'Snow girls"

We were blessed with amazing snow and blue skies and sunshine....

Special time with our family...


...and wonderful memories.

Do you have a special place you call your 'Spiritual Home'? 

 I would love to hear!