Friday, 24 July 2020

End of term, end of primary school

It's all been going on here, the big and the little. I blinked and both our children appear to have left primary school. Here he is, after his school "Oscars", clutching his trophy for "Biggest Daydreamer" (spot on, I thought) which consists of the school mug stuffed full of sweets. He was beaming and so proud of himself. This year has not been easy for children (or adults too, for that matter) and I have been so thankful that he was able to return to school for the last six weeks of term. It made such a difference with how ready he feels to go to secondary school in September. 

We celebrated with a meal out at the kids' favourite burger place, 7Bone, which was our first meal out since February. Their safety measures and social distancing were brilliant, not that I was overly worried about that. I was more concerned about having my temperature taken upon entering and finding that it was too high and we wouldn't be allowed in, but fortunately nothing came between us and our dirty fries. 

I finished school a couple of days later, on Wednesday, and it was a strange old week at work.  I work in a pretty tight-knit school with a team that rub along pretty well together, but with Covid, and the lack of children, plus a few staff members leaving - it just all felt a bit sad. This was probably compounded by me handing in my notice from my role as Teaching Assistant, as I'm going back to university in September to do Teacher Training. I swing between excitement and terror, mostly terror if I'm honest, but the flowers and cupcakes did help.

Ziggy turned three. We bought him a stupidly big bone and called him Birthday Boy all day long.

He wore himself out, as you can see.

In house news, we painted out front door. I have never liked our uPVC front door which came with the house, but since there's nothing wrong with it we can't really justify replacing it....yet. I reasoned that I could not hate it more than I already did so why not paint it, just to cheer it up? I did a lot of research into painting uPVC before we committed and, after sanding the door lightly and making sure it was spotlessly clean, gave it two coats of this primer which comes in black or white. You have to leave it for five days to "cure" before adding your topcoat, or you could leave it black I suppose if you wanted. 

Then we gave it two coats of paint to match the blue balcony railings above, Woad by Little Greene Paint. 

I adore it, and so does John. I find people's reaction to painting this door hilarious though - people seem genuinely shocked. One set of neighbours called us "bold" while another wanted all the paint details from John as they were also wanting to paint their uPVC front door. Our window cleaner absolutely loved it. It makes me smile.

Saturday morning pancakes made a comeback after a long break. I do love the fluffy American ones but if it's just me having them I make these oat ones. They are made with 100g oats, 200g cottage cheese and 4 eggs. I blitz it all together with a stick blender and usually get nine from the batter, and eat two or three for breakfast. They are denser than the usual flour-based pancakes but I really like them.

Less healthy, but I also made fudge, from this recipe. I had 3/4 of a tin of evaporated milk to use up and just googled "recipes with evaporated milk" and fudge was the first to pop up. I think it's the best fudge I've made. After cooking, you leave it to cool for five minutes then beat it in the food mixer for five or ten minutes. This takes away the slightly glossy, chewy texture and makes it thicker and grainier, which I much prefer. I like my fudge really crumbly, maybe more like Scottish tablet. 

I also made chutney with the redcurrants I picked in the garden, and I think it's the best use I've found for redcurrants yet. I followed this recipe and it is so, so good - I think it's the Chinese Five Spice that really makes it work. 

I'm sure it's lovely with brie or any other soft cheese, but I found it was delicious with cream cheese on a ryvita. 

I ordered myself a new bedside table locker during lockdown, but it took ages to come because of covid, so it was quite a nice surprise when I unwrapped it. I love these lockers, and they come in the most gorgeous colours; I couldn't decide between forest green, mustard yellow, grey or white, but in the end pink won. 

 I picked my sampler up from the framers. They made such a beautiful job of framing it, I'm so glad I paid to have it done professionally rather than trying to do it myself. 

The garden is looking a bit parched and not quite so well tended as it was during April, May and June. 

 But I try not to be too critical, and ignore the dead plants, and focus on the nice bits. Like all these pears hanging over the fence from the garden that backs onto ours...

And there are sunflowers too, which always make me happy.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Kitchen and Garden

It's almost the end of the school year and I am tired, but it's not my usual end of term fatigue. Usually, I'm physically exhausted, but I'll have an undercurrent of excitement as I think about everything that lies ahead over the six week break; the end of term staff night out, a holiday perhaps, catching up with friends and family, having people to stay, days out, ticking jobs of the to-do list. This year is different. I find myself both physically and mentally exhausted, unsure of what to do with the long break. Can we go and stay with friends and family? Can they stay with us? Is anything open? It's impossible to be spontaneous at the moment. I just hope that we have some good weather so we can at least go to the beach. Our planned holiday to France has been cancelled but I'm not despondent as we've just booked a last minute self catering break to Camber Sands in East Sussex with my parents and I'm looking forward to that very much.

Despite the uncertainty hanging over the whole summer, we have actually been doing some really nice things, just pottering around, enjoying our home and garden and local area. Now I'm working full time again, the garden only really gets my attention at the weekend, and then it's wonderful to spend a few hours out there and see what's going on.

My first ranunculus has flowered. So far it's the only one. If it's anything like the sweet peas then I'll just be happy with the one...

We have tomatoes. Multiple tomatoes on multiple plants! It don't think it will be a chutney situation but we may have enough for a salad.

I've been trying to perk up the front of our house lately, all on a budget. (My dreams of cedar cladding must remain that for now.) I bought a couple of huge pots and plants to sit on the balcony at the front, against the white upvc cladding. 

I treated myself to a David Austin climbing rose, New Dawn.

I've planted it at the back of this border where I hope it will grow up against the fence, filing the gap.

 These drumstick alliums have taken their sweet time flowering, but finally they are the most glorious deep purple.

I picked a few to bring indoors.

I haven't had much success with my blackcurrants this year (although I think the birds have had a lovely feast) but have picked 250 grams of redcurrants. I usually have enough to make one jar of redcurrant jelly which gets used throughout the winter with cold meats or stirred into gravy when we make a roast, and I always like the way a little bit of bottled summer comes into autumn and winter with us. But this year I fancy trying this recipe, redcurrant and red onion relish instead.

I've been really enjoying cooking over the last few weeks and have been trying lots of new recipes at the weekends. I think I might do a couple of my monthly cookery book posts over the summer, while there is time. Funny how I had all that free time in lockdown, but I didn't ever want to try any new recipes then. I wanted comfort food and familiar recipes, not to mention you could never be sure that you'd get exactly what you wanted in the supermarket. 

I recently tried these peppermint chocolate slices by Edd Kimber. They were really good, although rich. I quite like the look of his new cookery book One Tin Bakes. Honestly, any cookery book that says "one tin" or "tray bake" and I'm ready to buy it. 

You might remember that a couple of years ago John built us a lovely wooden peg rail shelf, which has always hung in the hall. I love it. It's both useful and beautiful and it's one of my favourite things in the house. Anyway, it was made from quite cheap wood and over time the left hand side of the shelf has bent and warped so much that you can't really put anything on it.  Plants would just slide right off. You can't really tell from this photo, but it was really annoying.

So John, with the last few days of his furloughed time at home, built a new one from ash. It's much sturdier and the wood is really gorgeous, it has such a beautiful grain. My Observer original books are currently residing up there, looking very pretty against the white wall.

The weather has been odd over the last few weeks. Windy, often overcast and humid, with the occasional shower that never really waters the garden as much as you hoped it would. There have been nicer days where we've seen blue sky, but it needs to be a few degrees warmer before I want to swim in the sea again.

It doesn't take many days of dry weather before the fields start to get that faded, slightly parched look. This always makes me feel like summer is half over already.

My sampler has been ironed and dropped off at the framers. I totally forgot to add the date to the bottom of the piece - I'll have to write it on the back of the frame.

My EPP patchwork quilt has been the most delightful evening project lately and I am absolutely loving every stitch. So far I have made and sewed together ten hexagon flower shapes. I find the easiest thing is to make a pile of the flowers, then moved them around, deciding where I want to put them, then I sew them to another flower. 

So far I am really happy with the random-ish arrangement of colours and patterns. 

I know it will be years before it's finished but it's such a soothing project.