Friday, 26 April 2013

Explorer's notes

This time last week I went exploring. A friend and I heard tales of a derelict house many months ago; it was something neither of us could stop thinking about. She, a photographer, and I decided to go and investigate, to see for ourselves what secrets this mythical house contained. It was all very Famous Five. We were trespassers. At every turn we imagined being sprung, forced to explain ourselves, mercilessly ejected. But all was eerily quiet...

We crunched through dead leaves, brushed past overgrown rose bushes and squeezed between trees in wild woodland. We found snakes head fritillaries, tiny patches of violets and primroses, and the thickest bramble stems I've ever seen. Our feet trod over grass so thick with luminous green moss it felt like a bed for fairytale princess. We emerged through hedging - once formal and clipped, now free and organic - into a paved pool area, which led to a pergola. Lush, green lawns spread out before us and we imagined children rolling down hills, hot summer days spent playing croquet, and games of hide-and-seek that lasted well into the dusky evenings.

The focus of our visit had shifted from house to garden. It bewitched us.

The sky is so big in this part of England.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Nature in the home

Today could not have happened without a lot of coffee. T had a horrible accident on Monday, falling over and bashing his mouth on the skirting board. A split lip, bruising, and a real case of separation anxiety have emerged over the past two days, meaning no sleep for anyone and a rather miserable household.

I have written about my love of rosemary before, and that love affair remains true to this day. So much so, I will make this soup today, and I already have this aromatherapy blend on the go. A heady combination with all the coffee I've mainlined already.

This foraged bunch was a collection of prunings from a rather overgrown plant outside the kitchen window. Joining in again with Lou's Nature in the home series.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A little bit of magic

Photograph by Paul Blakemore

As a child, a friend of mine used to visit her estranged father in France each summer. This was in the days before mobile phones and internet, those days when we made plans in advance and stuck to them. They agreed to meet on the steps of the town hall. At the allocated time, they each caught sight of the other. She would run to him, arms outstretched. And he, with hands tucked behind his back, would suddenly scatter blossom into the air, showering her with petals, love, and a little bit of magic.

Children adore this kind of unexpected thrill. Adults, too. But we so rarely experience it, which is why I'm going to The Raven and the Writing Desk. Over three consecutive Sundays, Bristol's Milk Thistle is transformed into a wonderland of interactive theatre and fine dining. Top chef, Tom Green, has designed an Alice in Wonderland-inspired menu for this intimate evening. Lucky diners are invited to dress up for the occasion, and will also enjoy entertainment from white rabbits and Cheshire cats, performing throughout the evening their own particular blend of dark humour meets slapstick, topped off with amazing costumes and clever set design.

Two Sundays remain to experience this magical event: 28 April and 5 May, and tickets cost £35-45. Find out more and buy tickets here.

I can't wait.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Living the dream

I love this place. Can't wait for the book to be published next month (and I think it might be time to go back for a spring visit).

These dudes are living their dream. Love it.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Nature in the home

Yesterday T and I re-did the window boxes; I planted while he dug for treasure. And we swept the path and gave the lavender hedge a haircut, and still he did not nap despite all that soporific pruning.    

My contribution to Nature in the home this week. Ok, it's nature just slightly outside (but still visible from) the home. Rules, schmules.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Project Simplify: A simple spring clean

Source: via Lottie on Pinterest

And so here it is - the first monthly Project Simplify. This month is all about a cull. Sorting wheat from chaff, pruning out old wood, and starting afresh. It's what spring is all about.

I have chosen to attack toy mountain. Over the Easter holidays, a friend of mine came over to the house. This friend lives a long way away and doesn't visit often, and I could see the look of horror on her face when she saw the boys' playroom, with its sea of plastic seeping like a tidal wave throughout the house. She told me she'd never seen so many toys.

Her innocent comment has shamed me into doing something about it. Although there are three years between my children and therefore their play needs are not the same, it can't be easy for them to play happily when faced with so much choice. This month I plan to go through every box and bin, chucking out any broken toys, taking those they've outgrown to the charity shop, and properly organising. I'm not sure I'll reach quite the levels of beauty and organisation achieved by Pink Ronnie, but I'm hoping for streamlined, easy organisation; a system, if you will. I love the regimented look of the image above, and that beautiful big apple print. Something to aim for.

If you'd like to play along and spend some time in April weeding out clutter, it'd be great to have you. You could start small. Perhaps you need to clear out your make up bag and rid yourself of old colours, broken brushes, or dried up polish? Do you have a cupboard overflowing with tupperware? Ditch the ones without lids, the broken boxes, or the ones you no longer use. Maybe you feel like attacking the junk drawer (please say you have one of these! Everyone does, surely?). Or go bigger - sort through your wardrobe, prune a bookshelf, clear out the laundry cupboard. It's up to you.

I'll be writing up my toy cull over the next week or so, and I'll include a link up button. If you feel like it, write about your spring clean, too - what/how you did, what you learned, how AMAZING it feels to de-clutter ;) - and join in so we can share tips and learn from each other's successes. Speaking of which, what are your toy organisation tips?

PS :: Here are a couple of PS badges if you fancy adding one to your blog - 250px or 170px. 
Just right click to download.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Nature in the home

Violets: one of my favourite flowers. If only these ones had a scent, I'd be a happy woman indeed.

Joining in with Lou's Nature in the Home series.

Monday, 1 April 2013


Hot cross buns are one of the first things I ever made with yeast. I must've been in my teens, not a hugely experienced baker but determined to make something tricky from scratch. I'm like that - I get an idea in my head and not much will stand in my way, least of all practicalities. I remember getting up early, before the rest of the house stirred. The kneading was exhausting and I waited so patiently for my dough to rise. The time factor shocked me. I hadn't realised how long baking can take, but as soon as those buns were out of the oven, their sticky glaze carefully brushed on, I was hooked.

As you can see from the pic, Delia Smith goes against the grain with her recipe, leaving hot cross buns with a deeply-cut cross rather than a piped-on pastry version. I am not Christian but I add this subtle cross as a nod to the Pagan symbolism of Easter, suggesting balance, the four seasons, balance, and the phases of the moon.

While these buns baked, their delicious sweet spice scented the whole kitchen and it reminded me of a beautiful book I loved as a child - Carrie Hepple's Garden. Three children kick their ball over the wall into Carrie Hepple's garden, a neighbour they are fearful of, perhaps they think of her a witch. When they go to retrieve the ball, they discover Carrie is a misunderstood character who tells them curiosities about plants, introduces them to a hedgehog, and invites them to take a 'hermit' from the crock by the door. The children are disturbed at the thought of a hermit living in a crock, but they soon realise Carrie Hepple's hermits are a type of sweetly spiced, orangey bun. Inspired by the book, I added a teaspoon of orange flower water to the glaze. (This book is also responsible for my love of a cottage garden - Carrie shows the children nasturtiums, love in a mist, and other beautifully classic plants that I have added to my own plot.)

Talking of which, the fragments of sunshine this weekend have been used to breath life into our neglected garden - we made a start clearing the weeds, pruning the roses, noticing the new green shoots, and making a shallow pond we hope will soon be inhabited by frogs or newts. But most of all, the kids played on the climbing frame, sliding and swinging in the sun.

On Sunday, friends joined us for brunch - eggs, buns, bellinis, and plenty of laughter. And that bunny came, bringing chocolate eggs in cardboard eggs tied with glitzy ribbon. Bunny is bling.

How was your Easter weekend?
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