dear diary :: out and about and little treats

An unexpected blogging break – not because I have had nothing to say but because I couldn’t easily use the computer with my sore middle finger that was as a result of a dog bite at the weekend.

We spent the weekend up in North Yorkshire to look after my mum while sis was away on a short holiday – we had taken mum out for lunch on the Sunday to Northallerton and we were browsing in a shop when it happened; I was helping my mum to choose a card when a couple passed behind us with a dog. As they passed the dog (who was on a lead, thankfully) suddenly went for my hand that was down by my side and bit me – quite an unprovoked attack so something of a surprise for me and luckily I had my leather gloves on or it could have been worse. The owners didn’t have a clue that it had bitten me as they were not particularly looking at the dog at the time but did look to see why I had let out a bit of a sharp cry of pain!

I think the shock for me was worse at the time than the bite as I didn’t see it coming – the couple thought it was highly amusing and said the dog had a habit of biting gloves – but unfortunately my hand was inside mine at the time and afterwards my finger became quite sore and stiff for a few days. Since the incident with the dogs in the park last summer I have been rather wary of them and haven’t as yet been back to the park, but I never thought one would bite me for no reason in a shop. I am only relieved that it didn’t bite my mum or worse still one of the grandchildren.

After the eventful weekend we had quite a slow start to our week – a bit of a potter round unpacking, a supermarket shop to stock up the pantry, a bit of work on the new kitchen design and yesterday while the weather was dry and sunny outside we stopped what we were doing and went for a walk down to the village and around the block – it is really a very small town with a town hall but everyone refers to it as the village – we called at the Co-op to buy a pack of paracetamol (just in case of you no what).

I noticed we have a new sign in the centre of the village – a picture taken by a friend of mine – this is very typical of the towns and villages around here – a true Yorkshire mill town with stone terraced houses and cottages surrounded by hills and moorland.

I picked up a free copy of the Co-op magazine which has some lovely recipes inside – I will certainly be giving the chick pea minestrone a trial. I also added the very last bunch of those cheap and cheerful daffodils to my basket – they brighten up any spot in the home and make it feel like winter might soon be passing.

DH once bought me this unsual and colourful frosted glass vase for my birthday and it is perfect to display the daffodils in. I tried to find some witch hazel or winter jasmine to add to the arrangement but to no avail so had to make do with a couple of meandering honeysuckle branches instead.

I spotted quite a number of daffodils still in bud on the way home, no doubt quite sheltered here by the wall but still reluctant to open and brave this cold weather. I could see the blossom just starting to open on the bare branches of the cherry trees too so surely now spring is just around the corner.

I have been thinking…. planning even……. for when I can get out into the garden and was tempted to buy this book called ‘Veg in One Bed’ by Huw Richards. A perfect book for me as I have very little space to grow vegetables here in our garden in Yorkshire. The author guides you through month by month explaining what to do and how and when to do it. Even though they are more expensive I do love a hard backed book for things that I will keep and refer to….I think it will be money well spent.

Having finished the tablemats I decided I would have another go at making a patchwork quilt whilst the weather is still cold and before I am beckoned into the garden. I have a small heap of rather triangular offcuts from when I made the bunting for my daughter’s wedding. I had saved them with a view to making her a cot quilt for her first baby but as she surprised us with little Freddie the peachy colours and flower prints are a bit too feminine.

I intend to make a quilt anyway either for her or her sister’s two little girls, Little L and Sweetie. I spent a morning cutting out strips with the special ruler and rotary cutter I bought years ago. I love the old fashioned vintage quality of the prints – they are mostly fabrics from the Belleboo range and are a lovely cotton lawn.

The knitting has taken a bit of a back seat this week – it is hard to knit with a sore finger but as you can see from the photo above I have made some progress on the little jumper and now have a front to my back. Hopefully knitting will resume any day soon.

When we saw my mum at the weekend we also took her to Eggleston Hall on the Saturday for lunch. I had a baked potato with cheese and salad and my mum chose the rather delicious looking tomato and red pepper soup.

Sadly, walking around the garden and nursery is not in her capabilities now so she sat and read the local newpaper with another cup of tea while we had a quick wander round. It is by far one of my favourite places; summer or winter there is so much to see. The gardeners working in the nursery looked extremely busy, in and out of the greenhouses and moving tiny plants around getting ready for the gardening season.

My favourite part of the garden is down by the old ruin – the former Chapel of Ease – a private chapel which closed in 1868.

You can walk through the chapel ruin taking the stepping stones that lead you around the old, presumably self seeded, tree growing in the centre and in the absolute quietness here delight at the abundance of birdsong. Like a secret little hideaway there is plenty to discover….

…..and outside the surrounding graveyard is strewn with a carpet of snowdrops weaving their way amongst the old gravestones. What a wonderful resting place.

Some of the old outbuildings in the garden are now home to one or two resident artists and crafters.

Inside they have a roaring fire (so welcome on these bitterly cold days) and some beautiful cards and gifts by some very talented artists. I bought these little glass coasters from photographer Amanda Hodgson as a gift for next Christmas for a very dear friend of mine who (you guessed it) loves Robins. They came nestled inside a lovely velvet gift bag.

My lovely mum – I caught her unawares when I took this picture in the cafe – she was much brighter for her trip out and a good lunch. Seeing her here you would not think she was 94 nor that she is currently struggling to walk. Her top half looks fine but below the table is a different story with arthritis in both her knees and feet leaving them swollen and deformed now. She would want me to tell you though that her hair colour is only just starting to turn grey – quite an achievemnent.

So that has been my week – a mixture of days – some productive some less so but all of them leaving me with a story to tell.

Hope you are all having a good week and avoiding the lurgy of doom! Take care everyone and of course a warm welcome to my new followers. xx

dear diary :: morning glory

What a beautiful day today – I spent the morning in the garden and it was gloriously sunny and warm and quite calm. The birds were twittering away and it felt like spring had arrived which is not usually this early high up in the Pennines as we are here. The jolly Budha was certainly smiling, yet we all know this kind of weather can be very deceiving and we might suddenly be plunged once again into cold, wet, wind and snow.

With this in mind I didn’t cut back very much of the dead foliage in the garden as it can be quite protective of any harsh weather still to come. I did manage to get the bulbs planted that had started growing indoors in the bag and I also repotted some tiny Irises I bought in Thirsk at the weekend as well as planting out a pot of snowdrops into the small border.

There are bulbs springing up all over the garden now and the Primulas are in full bloom.

Even the pansies have over wintered well this time.

The rhododendron grown by DH’s grandfather and named after him has some nice fat buds waiting to burst open when the time is right. I just hope this year they don’t open too soon and then get hit by later frosts. The one in our Scottish garden which was a cutting from this plant does much better.

I was so glad to see the Clematis I bought last year, and which is still in a pot, has some new leaf buds….an encouraging sign that I have not yet killed it.

In between a bit of gardening and tidying I was running in and out with the washing getting as much done as I could and out on the line while the going was good. DH had taken his car down to our local village garage to have the brake discs done ready for the MOT in April. It has been quite a hefty month or two financially for the cars with both car tax and insurance being paid on top of the recent maintenance costs and an annual service.

This afternoon I went up the road for a cup of tea and a natter with my neighbour. We usualy meet on a Friday but she will be out tomorrow. We spend a couple of hours putting the world to rights and catching up with our news – a lot can happen in a week.

Tonight I am making a cauliflower and broccoli bake for our supper. It is one of my favourite meals in the winter months and quite quick to do. After tea I expect we might just cosy down and watch some TV and maybe an early night. I have just finished my book ‘Confessions of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell – I enjoyed it as much as the earlier one he wrote though I would be very wary of starting a converstion with him should we ever visit his shop in Wigtown, which is round the bay from our cottage, just in case the conversation was ever recorded like many in one of his books!

Tomorrow I still have a million and one jobs to do so we should be having another day at home. Have a relaxing evening…I am! xx

seasons :: bedding down for winter

They are certainly grey wintry days at the moment that make you want to stay indoors keeping cosy and warm; reaching for a nearby throw and snuggling down to watch a film or read a book. It is the time of year when the weather can take a turn for the worse; windy, wet and often bitterly cold – we have had all three recently and I find myself yearning for a little snow as snow seems far more pleasant and of course pretty. It is the time of year when you just want to ‘bed’ down and only surface as spring appears.

Indoors I am still ploughing my way through the dirty laundry left over from Christmas and when I have washed and put it out on the line to dry it then becomes part of the ironing pile mountain. Each day I do a little bit in the hope I will ever see the bottom of the basket again – wash, dry, iron then put away. The laundry is a very circular task like prepping, cooking, eating meals then clearing up.

It is the same with our finances – each day I am doing a little bit towards reducing the pile of receipts so that I can balance the bank statements; though I know it would be more satisfying to me if I could take one project to a conclusion, but I also know that if I focus on one thing something else will not get done at all.

I am returning at the moment to my kanban board by my desk in the office / craft room. Here I can stick post it notes to a glass notice board that is marked out in sections – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’.

The idea is that the tasks move across the board from ‘To do’ to ‘Done’. We each have three colums and there should never be anymore than 3 tasks waiting in the ‘In Progress’ section – only when one moves to ‘Done’ can another task be started. I often give really urgent tasks a different colour of post it note like bright pink – too many of those and I know it is panic stations.

This morning DH made tomato soup for tomorrow’s lunch before finishing off the shelving in the pantry. We decided in the end the lowest shelf didn’t really need the strip light underneath – it seems bright enough in there as it is with the two downlighters.

As I write he is doing the last little finishing touches, then it can be given a final wipe down and I can put the storage jars on the shelves.

Then sit back and admire!

I, on the other hand busied myself hanging the washing out to dry and whilst I was in the garden I reached for my camera. Our mahonia is absolutely magnificent this year and providing us with a lovely splash of colour now all the Christmas lights have been packed away.

Most of the garden has bedded down and is ‘slumbering’ nicely but the primulas have come to life and the cyclamen I planted in the autumn continue to provide me with a lot of pleasure each time I go in and out of the front door.

Even the land cress refuses to give in to the cold wet weather and packed with minerals is an added boost to the supergreen soup we make.

If I looked close enough I could see little signs of life here and there – pushing up through the cold, damp earth and decaying leaves.

For all the signs of life in the garden there has been no signs of life down our road today – not one person to nod or speak to. I think it must be hard to be on your own all day and not see a soul so with this in mind I have added ‘call aunty M and my mum for a chat’ to my list.

creating health and wellbeing

I made the physio appointment today for Friday. It isn’t with the guy I had wanted as he is booked until the end of January and I don’t feel my knee will last that long. I am worried to exercise it now and do the wrong ones – I need specific advise from an expert.

I didn’t attend yoga in the end for the same reasons really – too worried I might put too much of a strain on it even though my teacher is good and will adapt postures to suit need.

I did do a meditation session today….yeah! It was difficult at first to quieten down but soon I was drifting away in my own little heaven, like letting soft waves wash gently over you and after doing it and feeling so good I wonder why I don’t do it everyday – who wouldn’t like to feel completely relaxed and on cloud nine all the time. Of course the answer is distractions and interuptions and giving way to a hundred and one other things I feel I must be doing.

At the moment the CD I am listening to came free with this book. The narrator of the seven various meditations has a very calming, unhurried voice who keeps telling me it is OK if my mind wanders or I don’t feel anything in particular. You just feel what you feel, no right or wrong. I am actually looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

I keep munching the apples too and need to stock up with more soon.

My memory though is pathetic – I forgot the weigh in yet again this morning – I am now worried this may be a form of self sabotage, denial even. I do know the reason though – it is simply that my dressing gown is in the laundry system and I have been getting up and dressing straight away so by the time I remember I need to weigh myself I do not want to undress again.

Today for lunch we used up a dish of leftover mashed potato that was in the fridge so as not to waste it – I heated it up in my ceramic green non stick pan and sprinkled over a handful of grated cheshire cheese, cooked a few mushrooms and added a can of baked beans. There was a bit of healthy side to it somewhere I think and it was warming and delicious.

Tonight we are having the remains of the shepherd’s pie with broad beans (steamed of course). Broad beans are packed with protein and fibre as well as being a good source of both folate and B vitamins, and they contain high concentrations of dopamine – for this reason they are being researched as a possible benefit for anyone with Parkinsons disease.

Starting too many changes is not the aim of my game here but I feel that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to become better hydrated by drinking more and see if this makes a difference to my health.

I have never been a big drinker (alcoholic or otherwise) – at work I always had a small china mug, none of these super sized ‘buckets’ for me. Presently I wake up and have to drink a full glass of water to take my tiny Thyroxine tablet and propel it past my gut into my intestine for it to work properly. I then have an hour to wait before food – but I often end up waiting two – I need to know if this is good or bad thing as yet I haven’t read anything that would tell me. I do know that restricting the hours that you eat is beneficial or thought to be – but that will be for me to investigate another day.

After breakfast I have a cup of green tea and another mid morning then it is a cup of ginger tea after lunch. From then on I have ordinary black tea with milk and a mug of hot milk with an added spoonful of slippery elm at bedtime. The slippery elm is good for lining the gut.

You may notice I don’t actually drink any more water other than in my tea so this is what I will try and rectify by having at least one more glass throughout the day.

I desperately need to get down to planning some meals before we have to go shopping again. We will not need very much as our new pantry actually looks stuffed full of food – I cannot believe that so much came out of our kitchen cupboards.

So after just a few days my health and well being changes list now looks like this:-

  • an apple a day – check
  • a meditation session – check
  • green tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • ginger tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • a healthy breakfast -yoghurt and fruit followed by museli – I think it is
  • a healthy lunch – mostly
  • a healthy evening meal – most days

The question is how long can I keep this up??

dear diary :: sing to me, Autumn

Home once more and we are truly into Autumn now; but hasn’t it been a glorious month – apart from bouts of heavy rain (my sympathies go out to anyone that has been hit by a flood).

The words of the poem ‘Sing to me, Autumn’ are a perfect reflection of this moment and encapsulate the beauty of the season – the sunlight streaming onto the garden this morning was so beautiful – casting deep shadows whilst highlighting the crimson red berries of the cotoneaster… I reached for my camera but it is so hard to get a good photo. There is an abundance of berries down by the seat – we have left it out a little longer as it is such a nice sheltered place to sit and admire the last of the season’s flowers.

Our blinds are being drawn earlier each evening and some of the solar lights left out in the garden are struggling to stay on for very long. I am looking forward to all that the dark evenings and cooler weather brings – after the ‘gathering in’ time it is beginning to feel like the ‘snuggling down’ time.

As usual, after the wonderful slow life at the cottage, we hit the ground running once we are home. I have a long list of lunch dates to fulfill and phone calls to make – there are finances to catch up on and the garden still needs a bit of TLC. I won’t even mention the housework and cleaning that is obviously needed.

Oh and have you thought about Christmas yet?

…….No, ….. very sensible…..I would normally shriek at the very mention in September….but I feel this year that I want to get ahead as I am finding, in the more recent of past years, that everything gets so hectic and stressful the closer we get to December and I try to pack in far too much in those last 3 weeks.  So rather than rush through it I would prefer to savour each moment and enjoy the concerts and Christmas events (that I often miss through lack of time) having completed all the necessary preparations in good time.

I have made a start and though I said I wouldn’t, I relented a few days later when in Tesco… right in front of my nose the new Country Living Christmas magazine appeared – (of course I blame Sadie at Notes from an ordinary life for persuading me as I noticed she had also bought a Christmas magazine and that made me feel so much better!). I kept last years too so hopefully they will spark off some new ideas.

I am mainly thinking about the gifts (we don’t have many to buy or make) – our family takes part in a ‘Not so Secret Santa’ – though I have a feeling this may change again this year – my daughters, who say they have everything they need, have expressed a preference for having a family gathering or event that gives us memories rather than any gifts, so this may be our step towards a no gifts Christmas within the family other than the young children. I will await the whole family vote on this but I personally would find it a lovely idea and support it.   

So it is mainly just a few friends who like to receive my homemade offerings -though I could be wrong and be like Ella of Thrush Green in the Miss Read books,  giving horrendous handmade gifts that people then give away as fast as they can – I haven’t as yet knitted any ties… wonky or otherwise!! 

I also enjoy making the décor, keeping it as natural as I can and of course the Christmas cards (I am thinking another lino cut this year as I enjoy doing those) and perhaps now is the time to start looking at sketching out a few design ideas rather than sitting down on the first day of December and saying today I will make the Christmas cards and then not having a clue as to what I might do.

And what a stroke of luck to find Sainsbury’s are celebrating Organic September (never understand why it is not Organic October – has a better ring to it) and those who know me well will also know I eat organic food most of the time so our Christmas cake is naturally an organic one.   Anyway, Sainsbury’s have reductions across their organic range so I filled my trolley with the fruit for my cake and the nuts for the nut roast.  I am well pleased though it bumped my shopping bill up quite a bit.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I bought this snuggly top. I have bought very little throughout the year – it has not been quite ‘a no shop’ year but close – this little top will be ideal for those chilly days at home or when visiting my friend for coffee, who has minimal heating on and I do find it a bit cool at times so tend to go in a few discreet layers.

Remember I collected a few flower heads and petals to press at the caravan – well they are now quite flat and ready to go. The only means of pressing them at the caravan was to use some kitchen roll between the pages of a notebook so the textured pattern of small dots on the kitchen roll has imprinted onto the petals but I quite like it! I have bundled them into some cellophane bags to protect them. My favourites must be the delicate blue campanula, the white daisy heads of the chamomile and the vintage hues of the hydrangea petals. I just have to find a little time to turn them into some cards and tags.

For the rest of today I will be attending to the last of our cooking apples from the cottage garden. I am thinking an apple loaf would be just right and maybe a crumble using the blackberries for tea.

Have a lovely day x

seasons :: all is safely gathered in

Come, ye thankful people, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

There is something very comforting and reassuring about the words of harvest home – gathering in for the winter ahead, reaping the rich rewards of our earlier efforts of sowing and growing – picking fruits and berries from the hedgerows – and then making, baking and preserving – what could feel better and feed the soul at the same time. It is as nature intended.

I have spent the week here ‘gathering in’; apples for cooking, blackberries for pies, ripening tomatoes in the sun and stacking logs for the wood store – and thinking ahead, I have been foraging for useful Christmas decorations – pine cones, hydrangea heads and a few lengths of willow for a wreath.

I feel now that I am well gathered!

We have lived very simply here over the last two weeks at the cottage – only buying enough food for a few days ahead and mainly fresh food – vegetables, dairy and bread. We don’t keep stocks of anything very much in the caravan just a little salt and pepper, a jar of dried pasta, some rice, a carton of lentils and tomato passata and a few teabags. You might even find a tin of baked beans, if you are lucky.

But with Brexit upon us I have been thinking long and hard about what action, if any, I should take to stock my larder at home. There will be panic buying – I have no doubt – judging by the food shopping frenzy at Christmas – it seems it is a very British thing – but I hate to be a part of that. On the other hand the words in the hymn ‘all is safely gathered in‘ suggests to me that it is a wise move to gather in before the winter storms and what could be more of a storm in the making than Brexit.

At the beginning of this year I decided not to keep large stocks of food in my cupboards at home so that it would never end up as out of date waste and I have loved the emptiness and the fact that we have not needed huge amounts of food in hand or added to the ‘waste’ mountain; but now I feel I must heed the words of the hymn and gather in for my family. So when I return home I will be buying a few extra tins and long dated dry products, ready for the long winter months, ready for Brexit whatever shape that takes.

It has been the most wonderful few days here in Scotland, dry sunny days, not too hot, just perfect for gardening; it has been oh so quiet, just us and a few birds, who have also been busy gathering in – so before we return home, and I am sad to be leaving, here are a few pictures from around the garden…..

back soon – have a lovely weekend and welcome new followers. x

seasons :: sweet summer

The pleasure of a perfect summer’s day…. the warmth of the sun, dappled light falling through a canopy of trees creating cool shady spots beneath, an abundance of colour and scent in the garden and the taste of all summer has to offer with freshly picked fruit and vegetables.

An air of excitement and romance. Summer, for me, definitely has the feel good factor.

And it is Picnic weather. Eating outdoors is one of my favourite activities in summer, especially if I can take along my little trusty camping stove and whistling kettle to make a cup of tea, and not to forget a pile of picnic rugs to lie on and a good book or my sketchbook. All these things, but especillay that distinctive sound of the whistling kettle, brings back so many childhood memories spent in a state of absolute summer bliss.

I have all the necessary ingredients available to pack up a picnic at a moment’s notice and also make little treats that I would not normally indulge in; so a good stock of plain vanilla ice cream in the freezer is of prime importance for creating simple quick desserts using fresh fruits.

Yesterday I bought lolly moulds for £2 from Ikea – I will need to find some old fashioned wooden lolly sticks though as I am not keen on the plastic ones provided with the set. When Libbie comes to stay in the school holidays I thought she might like to make ice lollies, I think I might like to too!

Filo pastry is so easy to use and I have a number of recipes where you just beat up some eggs with a little milk, sour cream or fromage frais – whatever is to hand, add seasoning and pour it over any mixture of lightly steamed summer veg spread over a filo pastry case. Then add grated cheese – here I just used cheddar but hard or soft goats cheese, parmesan or a blue cheese would be just as good and finally a sprinkling of fresh herbs to suit your taste.

I have herbs growing everywhere in my garden – freshly picked herbs added to any meal are delicious. Chopped mint on Jersey Royals with a knob of butter, torn basil leaves in tomato dishes and rosemary scattered over a tin of roasting vegetables.

The vegetables and salads I am growing are not very far on this year with all the wet weather and lack of warmth and sunshine. I am so envious of all those bloggers displaying ripe red tomatoes already but hopefully mine will soon make up for the late start.

Having a working oven again is just brilliant – to turn it on and find it heats up (and quickly) is an absolute wonder. I am excited again about cooking and already delving into my pile of recipe books.

Thank you for all the comments on my previous post about the adverts – I am finding out from WordPress if these are their usual amount of ads – if so and nothing can be done I may buy into their ad free plan. As a reader myself I would not want to be bombarded with them and I always have an ad free read myself on other blogs because I more often than not read blogs through the wordpress reader and my own PC browser settings are set so that hardly any get through. I will update you all more on this soon.

Today we have no firm plans, maybe a bit of gardening or perhaps we will make a picnic and go off for the day. I will let you know.

Finally welcome to all the new readers …enjoy the journey but most of all enjoy summer while it lasts. x

sEAsons ~ celebrating Easter

Hi there – just dropping by to say I am still around but for some reason still very busy – this is not what I expected when I gave up working, I feel I am working twice as hard now as then.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter enjoying the glorious weather we couldn’t have timed our party better and of course it ended up as a real garden party (I needn’t have cleaned the living room quite so thoroughly after all!).Many of the plants had started to grow quickly in the warm sunshine  – we are usually quite late in this area being high up and I was willing my pretty Aquilegia plants, which have self seeded all over the garden, to open in time for the party….. but sadly they didn’t.  But no matter there were plenty of the bulbs and Primula still blooming and the blossom….hasn’t it just been delightful?

The party took some preparing in the end – for new readers this was a party for my son-in-law’s 40th birthday combined with an Easter party as it fell on Easter Sunday, we held it at my house because my daughter’s house is so much smaller.

We had Easter eggs and decorations amongst the party decor.  I spent some time covering polystyrene eggs with tissue paper which I hung from twiggy branches supported in a pot of sand hidden with a topping of moss, then added a few fluttery butterflies with my glue gun. I also had fun making these Easter food ‘flags’ to help guests identify the different sandwiches, salads and quiches. And of course we planned an Easter hunt around the garden for the children though the eggs had to be hidden well in the shade so they did not melt in the heat.

We had a day or two in the garden beforehand – setting out all the pots that had been in winter hibernation and adding a few inexpensive pansies and primulas for a touch of colour.

We removed the covers from our garden tables and chairs and brought out the large parasol, then hung out the white solar lanterns from my daughter’s wedding a few years ago – they had been stored in the loft and I was quite surprised they still worked. We also bought some Festoon lighting and DH made a great job of stringing it across the garden using the clothes prop and an old piece of aluminium tubing he found in the garage.At night it looked so magical……Our guests were handed nibbles and cocktails on arrival….. I had spent four days making a mountain of ice cubes in readiness – and ice-cold drinks were very much in demand.

The table was laden with food – sandwiches, mini wraps and four different salads all ordered from M&S by my daughter.   For the true meat eaters her MIL bought a selection of pies, sausage rolls and scotch eggs from a local award-winning butchers and my contribution was some small quiches and of course the cake.

The cake was certainly one project too many – it nearly didn’t happen when twice the ready rolled icing stuck to the kitchen work top despite the oodles of icing sugar I had sifted beneath.  I am no cake decorator and it was very rushed so this is extremely wobbly and the icing a bit cracked in my desperation to get it onto the cake!   And exactly what is it you may ask……a circuit board of course – as son-in-law is an electrician come electrical engineer and is always playing about with circuit boards.  I had to have precise instruction for this from DH as I had no idea what I was doing.For desserts we kept it simple with profiteroles, a huge bowl of mixed berries with crushed meringue and double cream to make Eton mess and some tiny party cheesecakes and chocolate bites.

Although not everyone was very impressed!!!

….but all in all it was such a wonderful day.

And the best bit…..Libbie (Little L) had made me an Easter present from some DAS clay a beautiful little pink heart – of course I will treasure it.It has taken me a while to straighten the house up again after the party – putting dishes back and packing bits and pieces away – I am feeling quite exhausted now – I could barely drag myself to Yoga on Tuesday morning and somehow I need to gather up a little more energy to start on the Christening dress….we need to do a bit of fabric hunting in the next day or two and celebrate yet another birthday, but on a much smaller scale this time, before we can finally escape up to Scotland for a well earned rest.

sEAsons ~ winter is the time for home

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
– Edith Sitwell

Ivy

RaindropsWe have had the icy cold days with a frosting of snow recently and then we had the rain… but it brought slightly milder weather with it, which has been quite welcome…today it is cold once again but very sunny.    Although I like the winter months the cold has got to my bones a bit – I must be getting older. The full force of the winter weather can be seen further afield out on the moors above us where there are wonderful and ever-changing vistas to capture – I love the bleak atmosphere that surrounds this expanse of wilderness  – there are no trees, no buildings and no people.  Even the sky can seem quite dark and foreboding at times.  Only days ago this road was closed to a heavy snowfall and ice and we had to find alternative routes on lower ground – yesterday as you see it is quite passable with only a light dusting over the hills.  The beauty of this untouched landscape is breathtaking no matter when you pass through.

Around the garden there are plenty of delightful things happening at the moment despite the weather.  I haven’t ventured outside very much but I have noticed little pockets of colour and a show of buds here and there.  Sometimes everything looks deceptively still and quiet beneath the carpet of leaves but on closer inspection there are shoots appearing and the bulbs I planted only a couple of months ago and these Snowdrops are beginning to push through the earth – a sign that spring will be here soon. Snowdrops To prevent the local cats doing their business and scratching around in the bare patches of earth where the bulbs lie beneath  I pushed a few twigs, from the hydrangea prunings,  into the ground as a deterent and to protect them and I noticed they are starting to bud and have actually taken root.  Anyone want an hydrangea there will be far to many to keep!Spring bulbsWhilst it is so cold I find the best thing to do is stay warm indoors in the kitchen making those nourishing winter comfort dishes.  Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese bake is always a favourite here and plenty of nut roasts with root vegetables.Cauliflower Cheese bake Mushroom soupMaking plenty of soup is still on the menu too – I have found a pack each of white and chestnut mushrooms mixed together make a very quick soup for lunch – add a  leek and a stick or two of celery and a generous handful of fresh parsley for flavour…

…and use up any leftover large ripe tomatoes to make a very warming Tomato Soup with red pepper and a little carrot and a touch of paprika, run through the blender and sprinkle with a good spoonful of parmesan cheese….Tomato soupOn those days when we only have enough soup left for one we share it and I serve a mini bowl of soup with a ploughman’s lunch to use up the thick crusts of bread.For some reason I always feel January is a good month for home life and a little housekeeping – not a deep spring clean and certainly nothing too strenuous but just enough to freshen the place up once all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away.

I have spent time in each room adding decorative bits and pieces and moving pictures around;  just using what I already have and switching things about.  Remember the dried oranges and limes I made at Christmas;  they have mellowed now but still add a touch of colour to these grey winter days and continue to fragrance the air. dried oranges My daughter bought me this lovely glass showcase perfect to display little bits and bobs.  I chose this lino-cut print with the red fox and the little red bird to go with my hand carved wooden robins – the bold black and white with a splash of colourful red seems quite appropriate for now.In the corner of the dining room the yellow tulips from Aldi for £1.89 are so wonderfully vibrant and cheerful – and very reasonably priced – I will certainly be visiting the store for more flowers in future as they have lasted so well.Tulips TulipsAnother small but new pleasure in my life is this desk calendar on a gold metal stand – Sadie over at Notes from an Ordinary Life introduced me to pink and I must say I am hooked – I saw this in Sainsbury’s and somehow it found its way into my trolley last week – it cost me £7 but it can be used again and again if I make and print my own calendar sheets next year when this one is finished.  I am looking forward to making my own too – I might try out some decorative stamps or lino-cuts.CalendarWe have done very little shopping so far this year as there is not very much that we need other than a new kitchen.   During the sales I got a great deal on the Neal’s Yard items – the face cream and serum I use was being offered at a discount in a gift box so not only did I get it cheaper but there is a free eye cream with it.  I also love their sturdy boxes and reuse these for all kinds of things.Mum must be getting more forgetful as for the first time in years (and I mean years) she didn’t buy me my usual slim handbag diary for Christmas so I looked for a cheap one in Poundland  – I should be able to spot this colourful one easily in my handbag – I carry one about to jot down appointment times, phone numbers or anything I need to make a note of whilst I am out (most people would probably use their phones but I am not a phone user – I still like paper – you don’t have to remember to charge it!).  Whilst out shopping I also took advantage of the reductions on Christmas cards and bought a couple of packs with 50% off to put away for next Christmas.

Staying snug and warm by the fire, watching old movies in the afternoon on the Talking Pictures channel, laughing at ‘For the Love of Ada’ – a comedy from the 70’s ,  a little reorganising and cleaning around the house, a few bright spots of colour placed here and there in each room, writing thank you notes to friends, flicking through my magazines for ideas and lots of planning for the year ahead – a pleasurable way to get through the long grey days of winter.

As Edith Sitwell says – winter is a time for home.

Baby X is now doing well – I think we are on the turn and mum and dad are easing into a routine – one with little sleep – but starting to find their feet now and feel more confident – they dealt with the problems that arose very well and deserved a medal for their perseverance – having a tiny baby relying on you for everything is especially hard when mum herself has post delivery problems that needs attention too.  Thank you for all your good wishes – it is very much appreciated.

I will be putting a tab at the top of my blog just for recipes of anything I mention here – do bear with me this may take a little time to do.

Hope you are enjoying your winter days x

sEAsons ~ Autumn it is then

Cow ParsleyThe Autumn Equinox is official this weekend – I was really sorry to see summer go but I have to admit it has felt so much more like autumn these past few days than it has at this time in previous years.The weather has been so unpredictable – one minute sunshine, the next rain interspersed with anything from a light breeze to a howling gale.  In the calmer moments I have been out and about capturing the hedgerows turning I love the varied mix of vibrant green and red at this time of year, the colours echo those of Christmas.Virginia Creeper Before we left for Scotland I had already switched over to my warmer clothes and these last few days I have been snuggled up in my Parker and woolly hat before venturing our for an evening stroll down to the village and back – well more of a brisk walk really as there is rather a bite in the evening air and a shrill wind blowing off the sea – so we have not lingered – tonight we took the torch with us too as it was dark quite early.Rosa RugosaI did not go in the garden at all today, DH finished the ‘winterising’ of the caravan and then the garage door and I sat inside attending to our finances.  I had a heap of receipts to log, statements to balance and a new budget to set- after all this is not a holiday I still have chores to do!

We have been making more and more cooked evening meals too recently – curries, Cauliflower and Broccoli bakes, nut roasts and baked potatoes – always my favourite – and salads have now been reduced to lunchtime only.FernI was amazed at the colour still in the garden here in Scotland – the pictures were taken yesterday –  but then we are in the Gulf Stream and many of the plants are quite sheltered.

The Valerian – still protected with netting from being eaten by the pesky bunnies are doing well.  This was the tray of plants given to me by Elizabeth MacGregor when we visited her nursery in Kirkudbright at the end of the season last year.  Having such a large garden you have to think of planting in threes or fives to get a good swathe of colour and mass so a whole tray full of around twenty plants was wonderful – an instant garden – thank you Elizabeth!

ValerianThe Chamomile self seeds all over but it is very welcome here on the seaside garden.Chamomile

LavenderThis Fuchsia and Lavender were both one of those cheap plants from Morrison’s – I bought them to fill a bit of a gap in the border when the other shrubs were small and newly planted. They definitely like it here. FuschiaI am not even sure where this white Agapanthus came from I don’t remember buying one but it has sneaked into the border under the Viburnum.White Agapanthus The trailing Nasturtiums flower well into November and are a lovely burst of colour on a grey day.Nasturtium The wild Fuchsia by the pond still providing a little colour now all the summer flowers are over.Wild FuschiaBelow is my dad’s hydrangea taken from his garden after he died – it stands majestically in a central position on the edge of the lower woodland walk. Hydrangea And lastly the Bramley apples – they have been abundant this year and much rosier now than when we picked some on our last visit.  So many windfalls – …we have been giving them away and will probably put some outside our gates for the walkers to take. Bramley ApplesDo help yourself!

 

 

sEAsons ~ counting down…already?

This landed on my door mat yesterday…

Really??

I am not even ready for autumn yet – I was still enjoying summer.

– well Mr Sainsbury I know you mean well and you want us to get ahead and you might well be counting down to Christmas but not here in my house – not just yet – try again in November.

I find this is consumerism at its worst – I am sure a lot of us keep having thoughts of Christmas; who will be where with whom, what gifts or cards might I make – some of you may even have those underway or have a cupboard stocked ready with gifts and cards from last years sales.

I have noticed Christmas cards on display in the shops since the end of July – there will be more things creeping in day by day now as the shops fight to get in there first and increase their yearly profits.  It seems that the start of the new school term is the signal to roll out anything Christmas with a gap in between for the Halloween merchandise.

When I was young my dad used to bring the Christmas tree home with him after work on Christmas Eve together with a couple of new china dishes specially for my mum from the local market.  We would have tea and then decorate it before bed.  Of course the decorations were fewer than we would have these days and we had already put up some homemade paper chains and those pretty expanding concertina cut tissue paper decorations that were strung from corner to corner across the room (I can’t even remember what they were called but someone may know).  Christmas then was much more contained – now it seems to sprawl across many weeks and months, making it a very watered down occasion for me to the point when sometimes I just want it all over with.

We all have to plan ahead these days and there are many preparations that we might be doing quietly at home but I really don’t want this time from September to December to become the ‘Christmas season’ when there is so much to see and do in autumn first.

Please can we not slow down a bit!

I would be interested to know your thoughts.