We survived Christmas. On a diet of wine gums and Michael Buble. Now we're a vegetable juice and reggae only zone. Really we are. Incongruant as Ska might be to Hampshire and the Cotswolds, it's the only thing that truly cheers a winter's day.
That and the arrival of spring in big cardboard boxes. Lucy and Victoria have been on a mega buying spree and we're literally stalking the local courier drivers in expectation. So much newness heading our way.
Mostly though, Shop Ban.do. Creative Director Jen Gotch is a major IG crush and the watermelon cooler is going to be the accessory of the summer. Mark. Our. Words.
Over at Cowley Manor, Laura spent twenty minutes talking to a customer called Cath about her career and love of shopkeeping before the penny finally dropped that it was the Cath, as in Kidston. The rest of the conversation went like this:
Laura: "Oh, what was the name of your shop? I might know it."
Eponymous owner: "Oh, erm...Cath Kidston."
Laura: "Never heard of it."
*jokes* - of course!
Back at the mothership, we took WinchQUAKE in our stride. Lucy thought it was her fridge rumbling. Rob thought it was his stomach. Not one single thing fell off the shelves.
Rob and our lovely new menswear assistant, Sam, took the annual trip to Berlin to buy A/W'15 last week. Here they caught up with some old friends - Merz B Schwanen, Universal Works and Filson - and brought a couple of great new brands into the fold.
It was Sam's first ever buying trip so Rob walked him through the process (shopping for nice threads isn't as easy as you might think!), and they bonded over the love of a good burger. Turning down an invitation to a veggie restaurant, the boys hotfooted it across the city on a tip-off in search of the best burger joint in Berlin - The Bird in Kreuzberg. And it was worth the trek. The burgers were indeed tasty, and they met Plya, a beautiful Hungarian Vizler who sat doe-eyed watching them eat their burgers. Quite possibly the highlight of the trip.
With the arrival of our Pies and Tarts recipe book and our long love affair with a Falcon pie tin, this was an idea that was first mooted last year. Finally, with pie eating season upon us and the need to bid a fond farewell to two members of the team, we had the perfect excuse to make it happen.
So for a fortnight we talked about pies incessantly; favourite recipes, how to make the perfect pie crust, piccalilli or mustard on the side. Lucy turned to her trusty Nigella's bacon and egg number, Victoria opted for pecan, Finn slaved for hours over a mascarpone cheesecake and Rob pulled off a spectacular dark chocolate torte. It was pies aplenty for all, and a perfectly Hambledon send off for Kate (now fully ensconsed as a lecturer up at Winchester University) and Rich (now managing the new Nigel Cabourn store in Covent Garden), who we wish only good and great things.
Never was a truer word spoken than when Laura Brown recently declared "we do a good birthday". Presents beautifully wrapped, fizz by tradition and cakstands and confetti on hand. It also helps that we have a master baker among our ranks: Victoria's daughter Mercy (a future bake off contender we think) whose expertise is called upon on ocassion. For 15 she whipped us up a Hambledon favourite - classic coffee and walnut topped with an espresso-infused buttercream (recipe below). Happy birthday to us!
For the cake:
225g/8oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
225g/8oz caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
50ml/1¾fl oz strong espresso coffee
225g/8oz self-raising flour
For the buttercream:
125g/4½oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz icing sugar
50ml/2fl oz strong espresso coffee
12 walnut halves, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.
Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.
Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.
Add the flour and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.
Spoon the cake mixture into two lined and greased 20cm/8in cake tins.
Transfer to the oven to bake 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden-brown.
Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
For the buttercream topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a small bowl until pale and light.
Add the espresso and mix well.
Spread the buttercream over the top of each cake, then place one cake on top of the other.
Decorate the top of the cake with the walnut halves (or sprinkles in this case) and serve in generous slices.
As fun as last year's traffic stopping honeycomb ball bonanza was, we decided it might be an idea to go out on location to shoot this year's lookbook. Much googling and many phone calls later we wound up back in Winchester, just down the road at Milner Hall. And what a backdrop it turned out to be, complete with all kinds of perfect props snaffled from the broom cupboard - tea urns, trestle tables and Hampshire Antiques Society signs - plus a great balcony from which to fire balloons up into the beautiful vaulted ceiling.
By the end of the shoot Victoria's son Hal had run countless errands on skateboard and bicycle, Finn was as proficient as a removals guy shifting stacks of chairs with a trolley; everyone had overdosed on the potent coffee from Black, White Red and photographer Michael had listened to way too much country music for his liking. Not that it mattered. Got the job done and we couldn't be happier with the results.
Welcome to The Hambledon Parish Hall Lookbook for Autumn 14. It’s a little bit WI, a little bit tea party, a little bit village fete but we hope it’s fully lovely. And it’s all available in store and online.
High summer spells an episode of birthdays at The Hambledon. We cooed over a weeny horse and carriage destined for Lucy's royal cabinet. And discovered that gin and tonic cupcakes really do work.
Afternoon tea breaks became gelato runs. And Sturgill Simpson's Meta Modern Sounds in Country Music won soundtrack to our summer. Just listen.
We cheered on Victoria's son Theo in the Winchester Criterium as he whizzed by our front doors, and welcomed back Laura Brown aka 'Best in Town' as manager of The Hambledon at Cowley Manor. A matter of much delight.
Purbeck farmer Benjamin Hole made hay while the sun shone. Watching his perfectly formed hay bales take shape over on Instagram has had us seriously life lusting. Olivia has bagsed him as her future husband.
An acquaintance of Steve McQueen's called by. No joke. He worked with him as a set designer before Steve made it big. Steve was dating a girl from the chorus line and they all used to go for drinks at Louis' bar. Much comfort to know the man was as nice and cool and decent as we always imagined him to be.
Meanwhile over at Cowley we were most intrigued by a lovely lady, master quilter, embroiderer and maker-of-own-clothes who has only worn blue and shades of, for the past 25 years. Laura sold her the neon yellow Custom Made cardigan.
Also, Outlander. We're obsessed.
There couldn't be a more perfect excuse to pop a few corks. So that's what we did at our official launch party at Cowley Manor last Thursday. A chance to welcome new friends, customers and team members into the fold; breathe, stand back and admire our lovely new space. What a lovely time we all had. Thanks go to the Cowley team for co-ordinating and to all of those that came along.