Monday, January 14, 2013

Life on the farm: Christmas

Hi everyone. Happy New Year to you all!

Well, we have a lot to catch up on. My kids had 4 weeks (!) off school for the holidays and I don't have a nanny so its been hard to post. This past week, Zach went back to school on Wednesday, and on Thursday Coco flew to France with her class of 10 girls to live and study in a chateau for 12 weeks! The packing - not to mention the emotional preparation - for her leaving for that long was endless. I managed not to cry at the airport (although Coco gave me permission to do so as long as I wasn't the first one!), but I collapsed into my bed the next day, and, at long last, today is my first day back in action.

So where should we start? Oh yeah. Christmas.

My mom arrived on the 10th of December in time to see the kids sing at the carol service on their last day of school. It was the cutest thing ever. The entire school (60 in total) learned a dozen carols and sang them by candlelight at the local church. Mom and I both had a lump in our throats. They then left school at the end of the day by gathering on the main steps in Santa hats and singing one last carol, the English version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." So effing adorable.

The next day Mom and I treated each other to a day of holiday cooking lessons at the Daylesford Cookery School. Daylesford is an organic farmshop galore down the road from our farm, and I'd been wanting to take a class there for years. We made a roast turkey with all the trimmings, a pheasant confit and traditional Christmas Pudding with brandy butter. We left there stuffed and satisfied with a few new recipes in our repertoires. P.S. The boots were Mom's Christmas present to me - they are made by Le Chameau and are the perfect winter walking boot. P.P.S. And the coat came from the thrift store for £100!

Doesn't this kitchen (at Daylesford) make you want to cook? Every student gets their own mini-kitchen station. 

Does anyone recognise this door? It's from my favourite restaurant in London, The Wolseley. The whole interior reminds me of a more masculine and more minimal version of Coco Chanel's apartment. Mom and I took the kids to London for ice skating, and we had a festive lunch here. A must do in London if you haven't already.

How chic is it that you can buy postage on your way to the bathroom at The Wolseley?

This is my Christmas jacket. It is 80's Oscar de la Renta, and I wear it every year at least once. It is a hand-me-down from my mom. I so clearly remember her wearing it to a New Year's Eve party in Palm Beach when I was a kid. W magazine once published a picture of me wearing it next to a picture of my mom wearing it way back when, and Oscar saw it and rang me up to ask if he could have it for his archives in exchange for anything I wanted from his store. There are so many things I love in his store, but nothing had the sentimental value, or guaranteed lasting appeal as I know this does, so I kept it. Phew!

This Celine sweater (bought at the outlet for just £100) was my Christmas present to myself. If you look closely you can see that it's actually just a dickey - the sleeves are a part of a thinner sweater I was wearing underneath. This dickey functions so well in my life - I throw it on under my winter coat and it gives me all the warmth of a thick turtleneck sweater without the bulk. Only Phoebe could be so clever.

Every year I look forward to my Christmas present from Diane Von Furstenberg, who I have known since I was 18. This year it was her new fairytale book "The Empress' New Clothes" written with Camilla Morton, and I so enjoyed reading it with my daughter. Thank you DVF!

All the neighbouring farms have a tradition of putting on a pheasant shoot the week before Christmas. This is the first time we were here for it, and I loved seeing all the customs associated with it, especially this custom bar built into the back of a friend's Range Rover.

The bonfire everyone gathers around at "elevenses" (snack time) to warm up and recharge.

Our neighbours on the shoot.

Most people in our neck of the woods go out to hunting meets at Christmas, regardless of whether you plan to get on a horse or not. Zach just enjoys going to play with the hounds.

On the 23rd of December our friends and neighbours all gathered at a friends' house for carols in their chapel. It was very moving. I haven't sang carols properly like that in a church since I was a child.

Our cat Dizzy watching the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day we started a new family tradition of going for a ride between present opening and lunch. Family, friends and neighbours all join us on horses, bikes and foot for a loop around our farm. Coco led the charge in her new riding jacket.

My Christmas day riding attire. 

The biggest meet of the year takes place on Boxing Day in our local town Chipping Norton. The whole town fills up with people cheering on the hunt. Everyone looks beautifully turned out while hunting, but I still love the red coats (the call them "pinks" don't ask me why) the best.

The hounds line up in town ready to follow the huntsman out into the countryside.

Later in the day, the hunt passed through our farm and Zach and I held the gates for them and watched them pass through. The whole scene looked from another time. 

Coco, settled in with her new iPad mini (a generous gift from her grandmother) on Boxing Day.


  1. What a nice way of living Christmas. I wish you could post more often. Thank you for your update

  2. Lovely pictures! Merry Christmas and happy new year to you too!

  3. I was told the scarlet jackets are called hunting pink after a London tailor (Pink or Pinke) with whom they originated.

  4. I was told the scarlet jackets are called hunting pink after a London tailor (Pink or Pinke) with whom they originated.

    1. Yes! that's confirmed on Thomas Pink Brand website:

      Mr Pink was an 18th century London tailor who designed the iconic hunting coat.
      The coat was made of scarlet cloth but was always referred to as PINK in honour of its originator.

  5. What a GREAT post! We were in London for Christmas, visiting from California. It was magnificent, Christmas Eve church at St Paul's, etc but there wasn't a local in sight. We were amongst all the Italian, German, etc tourists. And now I know why as the Brits were all in the coutnry side enjoying pheasant shoots and hunts! Next time, we'll stay in a country inn and try to participate in these fabulous traditions.

    Happy New Year to you, your blog is wonderful and it's so fun to follow your posts.

  6. This post makes me want it to be christmas all over again! The Oscar jacket is so beautiful, even more so because of its sentimental value.. I really appreciate the fact that you didnt give it away :)

  7. Will you please share info about your camera and the lens you use, especially for your post on the first hard frost?

  8. All of the photos I take - on my blog and on instagram (amandacbrooks) are taken with an iPhone 4s, often using insatgram filters.

  9. Happy to have news from your Christmas diary ... everything is so lovely, you are huge riding the horse with hairy legs ! it moves me a lot to see the hounds (memory coming back) from my childhood, the hunts in Chantilly, the red coat =Hermes inspiration ???, the fire place with the cat ... huge kitchen and Wolseley so charming. Wish you inspiration and a lot of creativity there. Sunny Side

  10. I have spent a very enjoyable afternoon reading your book & browsing your blogs (this one & Barney's).
    I love it all!
    Thank you

  11. Dear Amanda! You are truly my Muse)
    My name is Natasha Turovnikova! I am writing for Vogue Russia) Have my own blog under the name The Muse)
    Will You be so kind to be my Heroine there?????
    Just a few questions)))???
    Will be fantastic to make a video with You)))
    Thank You so very much)))

  12. Dear Amanda, I love your blog! Thank you for sharing so much of your farm; it's enchanting. Is that Jeremy Clarkson partaking in "elevenses?" My husband and I love Top Gear UK!

  13. Just discovered your blog today and I think I died of envy with that photo of that gorgeous horse you're riding and its gorgeous bushy mane. Such gorgeous escapism in your photography! I live in NYC and as such have constant country-envy ;). Glad I happened upon your space today! I'll be a regular reader I'm sure. Looking forward to new posts!