Hidden in plain view

It’s so easy to be seduced by the lure of “the Other”. Other countries, other families, other ways of life. It’s very easy to lose sight of the beauty that is right under your nose, that you pass every day on your way to work or the shops or that you live with. The beauty is hidden in plain view.

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Heaven on Earth

When I was small my mum introduced me to the delights of gardening by giving me my very own patch of earth in our back garden. My delight in plants was begun by watching the gangly stems of sunflowers spring up and then produce their brilliant smiley faces, and by watching a tiny miniature rose blossom among the weeds I never quite got round to pulling out. I remember my mother was always there in the background, never interfering but always being on hand to help out or offer advice if asked – pretty much as she was throughout most of my life.

Inevitably as a teenager and student, other priorities took over and growing in scholarly wisdom and knowledge was more important to me for a number of years. Then came marriage and family and thoughts turned to homely things once more.

When we bought our Victorian house many years ago, one of the things that sold the property to me was the garden. Small and surrounded on three sides by wall, it had very f features apart from a path which had been placed, unimaginatively, straight down the middle of the lawn. Here indeed was an opportunity to try about all the plans I had been making in my head whilst reading books and watching television programmes on transforming your garden.

My husband has now given up complaining about the number of gardens he is forced to visit, he knows he is fighting a losing battle. We are fortunate to be only a few miles away from the wonderful Hidcote Manor, with its fabulous herbaceous borders and inspiring planting. We also live near the Cotswolds which means we are only a short drive away from the villages of Stow on the Wold, Chipping Campden and Bourton on the Water, whose cottage gardens are all great sources of ideas and information for a novice gardener like me.

The work at times has been hard but finally I am starting to see the fruits of my labours. The peonies have blossomed, their weighty blush pinks heads bowing to the ground and their wonderful perfume vying with that of the rambling Rosa Albertine to dazzle the senses. Powder blue delphiniums and pastel pink foxgloves rise above the low growing geraniums and campanulas, and the many different varieties of lavender I have planted are a delight even in the winter, when sachets full of their dried flowers perfume my clothes and remind me of the warmth of summer. Now there is plenty of flora in place the wildlife has returned to the garden too. Earth which was barren is now rich and full of earthworms; dragonflies and butterflies bring colour to the air and a variety of different birds are now frequent visitors, coaxed back with regular feelings of nuts and bread scraps.

There is still much to do in my little garden, for the time being however, and while the continued hot weather makes even the easiest of tasks wearisome, I am content to sit in my garden, listening to the birdsong and the pollen-drunken humming of the honey bees.

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Patchwork (ish)

So, what to do when, for the 7th night running, youngest child is still up at 10.30 at night because”It’s too hot“? I know that extreme heat in England is such a rare thing that it is somewhat churlish to moan about it, but….

So in an attempt to get at least a little bit of sleep for us all, and without the luxury of enough time (or spare material) to knock up a full blown patchwork quilt, an hour on the sewing machine produced, Ta Da! The Almost a Patchwork Quilt / sheet thing

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Bunny love

Our local comprehensive school hosts family film nights once a month. Free entry and cheap popcorn and pick-and-mix. It’s a very informal night out, parents can bring young children and not worry about them being “shush-ed”, local people can get to know the school, and the school kids who volunteer to run the evenings get to know the locals. It’s a win win win situation.

So tonight we went with 5 children. And it was great. Hugh Jackman starring in Dreamworks’ Rise of the Guardians. So my simple question today is:-

Is it wrong to lust after The Easter Bunny?

Parsley Pesto

I’ve always had a problem with parsley. I get it when it’s chopped up small and added to a sauce say, but as a vegetable it’s always puzzled me. I really don’t get those bits that are plonked on the side of the plate in restaurants, and that stay there for the rest of the meal looking sorry for themselves and wholly indigestible. So it’s with some trepidation that I saw that we had a bag of curly parsley in the vege box delivery. In the normal run of things the parsley would stay in the fridge until it had turned to mush, and then it would be quietly added to the compost box, to do some good at the other end of the food chain.

But not this time. Oh no. This time I was determined to conquer the parsley. With the help of a recipe from Riverford Organics I thought it was time to try some homemade parsley pesto.

The recipe is so simple even I couldn’t mess it up. 100g of parsley (stalks removed), 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped and 100g of toasted pine nuts,

20130713-150742.jpgpop them in the blender with 1 tbsp of good olive oil taken from the 350ml of oil that you will slowly add once this initial blitz has transformed the parsley etc in to a coarse paste. After you’ve added all the oil stir in 100g of finely grated Parmesan and then lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Ta Da! Homemade pesto.

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In My Garden

My garden is a source of both pleasure and despair for me. Pleasure because I love gardens and gardening, I do!. It’s just that sometimes, erm, life gets in the way, or it’s just too darn rainy or cold to go out and so the garden kind of gets away from me. You know how it is? You look out one morning and there appear to be trees growing that you didn’t plant, and lost tribes living in the wilderness that you planned to be a beautiful herbaceous border a la Hidcote Manor? And, well, how did that happen?

Anyway, at the moment, and largely due to the frantic tidy up I did before dear hubby’s surprise 50th birthday party, the garden is looking, well, nice. And as the sun is still shining it seems a pity not to take the opportunity of enjoying it a bit…

20130712-122249.jpg This is the view of the Mock Orange that hides our shed and smells wonderful (the plant, not the shed).

20130712-122600.jpg …and this is my shady spot where I’m about to take tea. A little bit of left over Cath Kidston fabric to hide a slightly scruffy table, beautiful blue and white tea pot and cup, and we’re ready to go. The simple life? You can’t beat it!

Summer at last

So summer has come to England at last. In an effort to live more according to the seasons and disconnect my two children from the world of Minecraft, at least for a little while, we went to our local PYO The Malt Kiln Farm Shop, on Sunday. We got there just as it opened at 10am, smugly clutching the fruit boxes we’d saved from previous years. The sun was warm, but not oppressively so, the strawberries were warm and full of flavour, the kids were warm and by the end of the morning, a fetching shade of pink from the strawberry juices running down their chins and arms (one for the basket, one for me). We left with strawberries, gooseberries and rhubarb in our haul.

Part of my quest for a simple life includes trying to produce more stuff at home, relying less on manufactured products. Not sure that makes my life simpler as such, but it does give a tremendous sense of satisfaction to be eating home made! So Sunday afternoon saw me dusting down Mr Grossicks jam pan (given to me by a friend who’s late father (Mr Grossick) was a great jam maker) to make strawberry jam and gooseberry curd. Rosie helped chop the fruit and weigh the ingredients and the result was a healthy batch of 10 jars of strawberry jam, full of the warmth and flavour of sun-picked English strawberries.

Next stage was to throw together a batch of home baked scones, using a trusty BeRo recipe

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The last job of the day? To eat the scones loaded with jam and some clotted cream. Yum