Palm Springs, a cultural escape in the California desert on Falcondale Life blog. Palm Springs desert resort city sits in beautiful Californian desert mountains and is renowned for mid-century modern architecture and luxury family travel. California is a favourite bucket-list destination, especially for us Brits. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice, but our family has never been to the south of the sunshine state. I dream of sunny days and desert vistas, but we like to explore and be active too. The resort of Palm Springs appeals to all our wishes. I have friends in the area who have told me lots about it. Tourists are well catered for with many activities and attractions, but also the dramatic desert would be a fun new experience for us.

The Essence of Palm Springs

A century ago Palm Springs was reborn as a health resort thanks to the dry air and warmth. I find it much easier to cope with heat when it is not humid. The mountains to the west capture any local rain, but natural hot springs provide spa water to the city. From the 1920s onwards Palm Springs has attracted Hollywood royalty. It’s only a couple of hours drive from LA but it looks like a world away! I could go there to admire the villas of Palm Springs and perhaps stay in one myself.

A large part of the city gets the shade from the San Jacinto Mountain in the later part of the day, which is good planning as the summer heat is blistering. In fact, Palm Springs is a more popular destination outside the months of July and August, when temperatures can rise as high as 40 Celsius (104 F). That’s another part of its appeal for me as we are usually trying to fit our holiday destinations into the summer months. Instead, we could visit Palm Springs at a less busy time in our schedule.

Palm Springs, a cultural escape in the California desert on Falcondale Life blog. Palm Springs desert resort city sits in beautiful Californian desert mountains and is renowned for mid-century modern architecture and luxury family travel. Photo credit Caroline Culler wikimedia commons

Mid-Century Modern

The rise of Palm Springs as a health resort and retreat for the rich and famous is a familiar story for anyone who lives in a spa town. Just like my spa town home of Harrogate, the growth of the city was rapid. It attracted some of the top architects of the day. Whereas Harrogate is full of Victorian villas, Palm Springs is a mecca for fans of mid-century modern architecture. If you follow me on Pinterest you will know I have a bit of thing for mid-century design. The Californians of the 1950s and 1960s were such adventurous creators, building homes in space-age style unlike anything which had been seen before. Abandoning ranch style homes and carved verandas, instead they built big glass walls and sharply angled roofs, pushing the boundaries of shape and style. I think many of these buildings are truly stunning – atomic, even! These homes are all over the city, and some of the Hollywood stars built really eccentric ones. Even the KFC and some gas stations are design classics. As you would expect, there is a museum exhibition dedicated to mid-century modern heritage in Palm Springs.

Golf and Luxury

As a desert city, Palm Springs is blessed with hot spring water and underground aquifers. The suburban neighbourhoods are kept beautiful with abundant gardens and plants that you think wouldn’t grow in the heat. If you’re wondering how they keep over 120 golf courses so green and pleasant, the spring water is the answer. It’s a renowned golf destination and that’s probably the main reason why you’ve already heard of Palm Springs. In fact some of the courses are quite windy as the surrounding mountains make a kind of a channel for the west coast Californian air. I’ve never known a keen golfer to be put off by a breeze, though. There’s a massive wind farm outside the city which is really striking.

In so many ways Palm Springs is a luxury destination. It’s not just the beautiful weather, the beautiful buildings and the golf. The beautiful people are here too. The story goes that Hollywood movie stars had to be no more than 100 miles away from the studios in case of call-backs. They were able to build stylish secluded homes in Palm Springs and the downtown venues catered for their exclusive tastes. Many stars continue to be drawn to the city today.

Further down the valley is the home of Coachella festival which draws in crowds of beautiful people of another kind. At 25 miles distant the festival is accessible but also avoidable, if that’s what you prefer. In the same valley is Indian Wells, which you may know from the tennis tournament.

Palm Springs, a cultural escape in the California desert on Falcondale Life blog. Palm Springs desert resort city sits in beautiful Californian desert mountains and is renowned for mid-century modern architecture and luxury family travel.

Nature and Landscape

Also within an hour’s drive is Joshua Tree national park. As the crow flies it’s not far but you have to get around the mountains to drive there. This sounds like a beautiful route to me, ending in one of the USA’s most iconic national parks. Regular readers will I love good photo opportunities and the natural setting in this whole area would keep me really busy. Joshua Tree is a desert park which is famous for its greenery. I find that contradiction is appealing. However it’s a harsh environment with rattlesnakes and no water or cell phone service, so no doubt I’d be glad to get back to Palm Springs.

To fully appreciate the beautiful setting I would not want to miss a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It’s the largest rotating cable car in the world, and takes passengers up over 8500 feet in ten minutes. I’m sure it’s breath-taking. I love the fact it rotates, giving everyone on board a chance to see all the views. At the top are two restaurants, a museum and plenty of hikes. It’s also far cooler than the valley floor below. By all accounts we will need the right footwear for snow!

More Family Travel Tips

Older children might like a round of golf but the whole family may enjoy mini golf at Boomers Park – I know we would! Cool down at the Wet n Wild Water Park or perhaps visit the Living Desert Zoo. There’s a Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert too and an Air Museum. Downtown restaurants cater for all tastes after a long day relaxing by one of Palm Springs hundreds of pools.

Is Palm Springs on your travel wishlist? Let me know in the comments!

This is a collaborative post. Photo credits Jason Briscoe on Unsplash and Caroline Culler Wikimedia commons

Suitcases and Sandcastles

Winter sunsets at Clevedon cast light on the rocky foreshore, picking out the stones in warm light. Clevedon is a small Somerset town with a pier and historic sea front including a lido and miniature railway.

Clevedon seashore in Somerset, Pic of the Week on Falcondale Life blog. The winter sunset picks out the rocks on the foreshore in warm light.

Linking with My Sunday Photo. See last week’s linked photo blog by clicking here.

Photalife

 

Adapt a Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar on Falcondale Life blog. Adapt your Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar or use this mincemeat method to get more flavour into a rich fruit cake baked at the last minute.This blog post contains affiliate links – that means if you click on the link and go on to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.

Most of us are passionate about certain Christmas traditions. Personally, I am quite dedicated to Christmas baking. I make our own cake, Christmas pudding, mincemeat, mince pies, Christmas tree decoration biscuits and Yule log. I’m not crazy, it’s just my Christmas passion! It isn’t masses of work because half the ingredients are identical.

Admittedly, I am a bit of a recipe fiddler. I’m always adapting, altering and tweaking. I have two alterations to share for any standard Christmas cake recipe; one today and one in a forthcoming blog. Stay tuned!

Adapt a Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar on Falcondale Life blog. Adapt your Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar or use this mincemeat method to get more flavour into a rich fruit cake baked at the last minute.

Reduced Sugar Christmas Cake

There’s so much sugar in Christmas cake that it gives me a headache when I eat it. You can reduce the sugar in the recipe without losing flavour but it will not be as moist. My preferred solution is to reduce the egg whites, which have a drying effect. For example, an average recipe* for a 9-inch (23cm) round tin uses  9 or 10 oz (275g) of dark soft brown sugar and 4 or 5 large eggs. You can reduce the sugar by a quarter but at the same time, separate one or two of the eggs and omit their whites from the recipe. So that becomes 7 1/2 oz (210g) dark soft brown sugar, 3 whole eggs plus 2 extra yolks.

If you reduce the sugar by one third, then you should add in some extra egg yolks. So that is 6 oz (180g) dark soft brown sugar, 3 whole eggs plus 3 extra yolks.

This change is not drastic, and your guests are unlikely to notice the difference in your cake. Reducing the sugar reduces shelf life, but not by much.

Adapt a Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar on Falcondale Life blog. Adapt your Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar or use this mincemeat method to get more flavour into a rich fruit cake baked at the last minute.

The Average Christmas Cake

*When I say “average recipe” I have found (with extensive book and internet research) that there is very little difference between traditional Christmas cake recipes. I personally use a Zena Skinner recipe, which is very similar to Delia Smith but omits treacle. Mary Berry does essentially the same recipe and so does the BBC food website. The main differences between all these recipes is just the extra flavours such as treacle, orange zest and spices. The egg-sugar-flour-fruit basis is almost identical. That is why you can use my tip to adapt YOUR recipe!

More Tips

Tie one or two layers of brown parcel paper around the base and sides of the tin with string. The paper will stick up the sides. On top of this – not touching the surface of the cake – prop a cover of greaseproof paper with a hole the size of a conker in the middle. Don’t open the oven door for the first 4 hours.

I don’t use treacle because it can taste bitter if your oven is accidentally too hot. Also it just sits in the cupboard all year with no other purpose!

Something else which gives me headaches is E220 or sulphites in candied peel. I’ve hunted high and low and I am genuinely over the moon to have found a seller on Amazon uk who sells the sulphite-free stuff – http://amzn.to/2gWZX6Q. I’ve bought it already!

Ingredients

This fits an 8 inch (20cm) square or 9 inch (23cm) round tin.

10 oz (280g) raisins

12 oz (340g) currants

12 oz (340g) sultanas

10 oz (280g) dark brown soft sugar OR reduce to 6 oz (180g)

10 oz (280g) butter

5 eggs OR if sugar is reduced, use 3 eggs plus 3 more egg yolks.

10 oz (280g) plain (all purpose) flour

3 oz (85g) chopped almonds (not finely ground almonds)

5 oz (140g) candied peel

4 oz (110g) glace cherries

1 lemon (grated rind)

3 tablespoons of brandy or rum

A pinch of salt

1 level teaspoon of mixed spice

A pinch of cinnamon

A pinch of ground nutmeg

Adapted from Zena Skinner

Method: Soak the dried fruit in the alcohol overnight. Then beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time with a spoon of flour and beat in thoroughly. Fold in the remaining flour, salt and spices, then fold in all the remaining ingredients. Spread evenly in a tin lined with greased greaseproof paper. Bake at 145 degrees Celsius (295 F, gas mark 1 to 2) for around 4 hours 20 minutes

Adapt your Christmas cake recipe for reduced sugar or use this mincemeat method to get more flavour into a rich fruit cake baked at the last minute. Christmas cake recipe on Falcondale Life blog

Lastly – The Icing on the Cake

Real Christmas cake is never going to be a health food but I am glad to find a way to make it a bit more digestable. Next time I make this I might only marzipan and ice the top, and leave the sides bare. I recommend royal icing; the best flavour every time. But if you want to use sugar paste, try to get a really good one. Renshaw is a nice brand: http://amzn.to/2z7e2XJ

If making your own cake seems like hard work, it’s a much easier job to make your own Christmas pudding – and you will really impress your guests.

 

Pic of the week - West Tanfield on Falcondale Life blog. This is the classic view of the charming North Yorkshire village where it's also worth visiting Marmion Tower, and English heritage site with a stunning oriel window.This is the classic view of West Tanfield, a charming village in North Yorkshire just a few miles north of Ripon. Lots of people have photographed or painted this view and it regularly appears in Yorkshire calendars. This week I finally took my own photo. I was surprised to discover just how much I had to dodge the traffic to get this picture. The bridge is reasonably wide but there is no pavement. Lorry drivers tutted at us as we squeezed ourselves against the wall, just at the spot where the road curves onto the bridge. If any driver had failed to make the bend in that moment, we would have been toast! We were soon joined by a cyclist who had come to take a photo of the same view.

Pic of the week - West Tanfield on Falcondale Life blog. This is the classic view of the charming North Yorkshire village where it's also worth visiting Marmion Tower, and English heritage site with a stunning oriel window.

Still, with no-where proper to stand, let alone put up an easel, I do wonder how on earth so many people have painted this view. I assume they “cheated” and painted from a photo. I don’t blame them.

Marmion Tower, West Tanfield

Also in West Tanfield is Marmion Tower, a small English Heritage building with no entrance fee just next to the church. This gatehouse is the only remaining structure from a 15th Century manor. I have wanted to visit for years because other local photographers have mentioned it as a great site for a photo shoot. It has a stunning oriel window on the first floor. My daughter Fizz is studying photography at GCSE. She needs shots of light falling through some ancient windows as part of her project. I thought Marmion Tower would be ideal.

Well, it might have been perfect if we had arrived in the early morning. (Dawn would be beyond the standard abilities of any teenager though, right?) The oriel window faces east and we got there in the late afternoon with the sun low in the west. On the west side are some other nice windows. I took just a few photos before being rushed out of there by Fizz who couldn’t bear the dreadful unsuitable-ness of the site for her photography. We left in an unseemly hurry because apparently it was all SO AWFUL (it wasn’t).

Pic of the week - West Tanfield on Falcondale Life blog. This is the classic view of the charming North Yorkshire village where it's also worth visiting Marmion Tower, and English heritage site with a stunning oriel window.

Pic of the week - West Tanfield on Falcondale Life blog. This is the classic view of the charming North Yorkshire village where it's also worth visiting Marmion Tower, and English heritage site with a stunning oriel window.

On a happier note we spotted that the local pub is charming and has a stunning tiered beer garden going down to the river. It serves food and has won awards. So there’s my excuse to go back.

Take a look at more charming North Yorkshire locations – Knaresborough and Newby Hall

 

Photalife

Disclosure: this website contains some affiliate links.

Saving money and finding bargains on a trip to New York City on Falcondale Life blog. We had a great time visiting New York City, stayng in a hotel and seeing the sights. Going to the USA on holiday is quite an expensive trip so we were looking for ways to save money and came up with these tips for family travelers.

We had a great time visiting New York City in the summer, staying in a hotel and spending a few days seeing the sights. Going to the USA on holiday is quite an expensive trip so we were looking for ways to save money and came up with these tips for family travelers.

1. Use the Hotel Fridge

Book a hotel room with a little fridge. Summer in New York can be hot and buying drinks for the whole family every couple of hours really adds up. We bought a multi-pack in the supermarket and kept cool drinks handy in the fridge. We also bought milk, cereal, plastic bowls and spoons, saving a fortune on breakfasts. Stalls selling fresh fruit are on many corners of Manhattan, so the fridge was useful for these healthy snacks too.

Saving money and finding bargains on a trip to New York City on Falcondale Life blog. We had a great time visiting New York City, stayng in a hotel and seeing the sights. Going to the USA on holiday is quite an expensive trip so we were looking for ways to save money and came up with these tips for family travelers.

2. Take the Subway

Pick a hotel a little further away and travel in by subway. We didn’t realize how cheap and convenient the subway would be. Travelling off-peak it was never crowded and the trains are frequent. Some station stops are right inside the main attractions, like at the American Museum of Natural History. We stayed centrally and paid more for that, but now we know we could easily stay further out and quickly travel in on the subway. I’ve been looking at New York on the Holiday Gems website where there is plenty of choice for hotels over a wide area.

3. Supermarket Meals

Eat from the hot buffet in the supermarket. On a trip to New York City you don’t want to miss out on the experience of eating in a great diner or restaurant. We did that too, but it was too costly to do it every night. American supermarkets quite often have hot buffet food sold by weight. They also sell plastic cutlery and paper plates. We had a great meal from Morton Williams on West 57th Street, where an adult portion cost under ten dollars.

Saving money and finding bargains on a trip to New York City on Falcondale Life blog. We had a great time visiting New York City, stayng in a hotel and seeing the sights. Going to the USA on holiday is quite an expensive trip so we were looking for ways to save money and came up with these tips for family travelers.

4. Broadway Bargains

Get cheap tickets for a Broadway show. Now, we didn’t try this as we had too much jet-lag for evenings out. I was told that if you hang out near the theatres on Broadway around 5pm, you can get in line for cheap show tickets. A member of staff will open up the box office and a queue will form in a flash. Be ready! I do know someone who has done this and got almost 40% off the ticket price.

5. Flea Market Finds

Buy a unique souvenir from the Flea Market in Hell’s Kitchen or Chelsea. Of course, shops selling baseball caps, t-shirts and key rings printed with NYC are everywhere. Instead, hunt for a bit of unique American cultural memorabilia at the Flea Markets. They are open every Saturday and Sunday selling antiques and bric-a-brac. Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market is a short walk from Times Square and is easily found on Google maps.

Have you ever tried any of these tips, or do you have any to add? Perhaps you are planning a trip to New York City. Please let me know in the comments!

This is a collaborative post.

Saving money and finding bargains on a trip to New York City on Falcondale Life blog. We had a great time visiting New York City, stayng in a hotel and seeing the sights. Going to the USA on holiday is quite an expensive trip so we were looking for ways to save money and came up with these tips for family travelers.