Tuesday, 23 July 2019

A Change of Pace

I finished work on Friday and, since then, I have:

:: received some of the sweetest gifts from children

 and flowers from colleagues

:: attended a local Gin Festival (I highly recommend everyone do this!)

:: celebrated the first day of the holidays with waffles for breakfast

:: enjoyed the sanity-saving properties of a good blanket to crochet when life is so hectic. I've reached the half way point now and, since it's a corner to corner one, each row will now only get shorter.

:: spent a little lazy time deeply engrossed in Nigel Slater's newest book Greenfeast: Spring, Summer 

:: turned an armful of rhubarb from my mum's neighbour's garden into a kind of compote/stewed fruit affair, to be stirred into plain yogurt. There was lots left that I chopped and froze in portions ready for winter crumbles, too.

:: faffed happily with another armful of free goodness, this time the most glorious pink hydrangeas from my parents' garden

:: took Bella to get her ears pierced

:: tried a new dog walk

:: been shocked, as I am every summer, at how early the blackberries are. (I don't know if they are early but I insist on thinking of them as an autumn fruit when they are very definitely a late summer thing really.)

:: ordered some linen fabric from the Seasalt sale. (Jo this is your fault.) I am already wondering if I've done the right thing, what with pattern matching, but I can always make cushion covers if I am too scared to make a dress or skirt.

:: made blackcurrant and liquorice ice cream (recipe from Simply Nigella). I'm waiting impatiently for it to set.

:: got out the paddling pool. Is there a greater pleasure than dipping your hot toes in the icy water? And suddenly the children seemed smaller again.

Ziggy does not know what to make of it. He is currently flopped out on the rug in the living room, sound asleep. He has no energy in this heat.

:: pottered around the garden at dusk, admiring the sunset and watering pots

It's very hot today, around 32°C. I thought about going to the beach but didn't have the energy to face the traffic so we've pottered here instead, all of us inside and outside and doing our own thing. The children have been in the paddling pool most of the day but have now come inside, Bella making friendship bracelets and Angus playing on the Xbox. We're at that lovely stage at the start of the school holidays where it stretches out ahead of us, gradually filling up with plans and arrangements, where six weeks feels like the longest time. Of course I know that it will go in a blink, it always us. We're starting to think about what we want to do, where we want to go. I've told the children to write summer holiday wish-lists mainly because I love to see what kinds of things they put on them. There is always something random that hadn't occurred to me. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Shades of Purple

Last weekend, my mum suggested a visit to Lordington Lavender, a nearby lavender farm which opens its fields to the public for one week a year. I'd never heard of it but I think everyone else in Sussex and Hampshire had, judging by the crowds. It was still lovely though and, despite the number of visitors and the fact that they'd sold out of ice cream, managed to retain a charming English village fete feel, with tractor rides, hay bales, and stalls selling teas and lavender cake, as well as their own lavender products. The colour and scent of the flowers is as strong as you'd imagine, but the thing that struck me the most was the hum of the bees. You almost don't notice it at first, but once you do, it's captivating. So many beautiful bees, just doing their thing. That hour was just the pause I needed at a very busy time of year. 

As you would expect for somewhere so photogenic, it's very popular with photographers and I think there were lots of people there who'd gone wearing nice clothes and with good cameras purely to take some pretty family photos. I hadn't really given the whole trip much thought and, while I had remembered my camera, I forgot the memory card, and I hadn't given a moment's thought to what myself or the kids were wearing (with Angus in that awful Minecraft t-shirt that he loves and I loathe). 

But still, a delightful way to spend a warm Saturday afternoon in July, and I got some gorgeous body lotion too.

With my head full of those rows of purple flowers, I went straight to my sister's to beg an armful of the stuff from the huge plant in her front garden.

I had thought about drying some but it's currently sitting in an earthenware pot on the kitchen table. I love it. I can pretend I live in a Provencal farmhouse.

I also became obsessed with making lavender shortbread, and baked a batch on Sunday afternoon. I was worried that the flavour might be too strong - I love floral flavours like lavender and rose but know that not everyone does - so took them into work on Monday for honest criticism. The response was more lavender, not less, which was relief. I didn't want anyone to think they were eating soap.

I just made another two batches tonight as we're having a tea party after work tomorrow for a much loved colleague who it retiring, and we're all bringing something along. Don't worry, I've kept some shortbread back for us to eat.

Lavender aside, I finally managed to produce a few sweet peas, not my usual amount but enough to put in a little vase on my bedside table.

We also spent a little time picking all the redcurrants and blackcurrants at the bushes from the bottom of the garden. I say we - I bribed the kids and made them do it, as I was distracted by lavender shortbread. Ziggy, as ever, had to be in on the action.

 For now, all the berries have been washed, weighed and frozen, ready for a day when I am not rushed and actually have time to deal with them. I'm thinking redcurrant jelly, possibly to be turned into a sweet chilli dipping sauce, as I did last year, and maybe a summer pudding. For the blackcurrants, I have enough for one batch of Nigella's blackcurrant and liquorice ice cream and possibly a jar of jam.

Thank you for your kind comments on Bella's room. Yes she is a lucky girl, but I know that she appreciates the space she has and in no way takes it for granted. I came home from work on Monday to find that she'd stripped the bed and put fresh sheets on, dusted, watered the plants and was in the process of vacuuming! That instantly put me in a good mood, let me tell you. However, the rest of the house is a complete pigsty at the moment because we're all just concentrating on getting to the end of term and letting out a huge exhale in relief. Two more days. 


Lavender shortbread

125 g soft butter
55 g caster sugar
180 g plain flour
1 level tsp chopped lavender flowers

  • pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  • mix butter, sugar and lavender together
  • add the flour until you have a dough
  • tip out onto a floured work surface, pat into a smooth ball and roll until 1 cm thick
  • cut into circles
  • bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned
This amount of dough gives me anywhere between 12 and 15 biscuits depending on how thickly I roll it out. You can keep going until every last bit of dough is used, but I find the last few scraps become crumbly from the extra flour you're working into it and hard to roll out.