Wednesday, 26 August 2020

August Fading

I always have such a strong sense of summer drawing to a close at this time of year. So much of that is to do with getting everything ready for the new school year in September (there's nothing like spending almost £300 on school uniform to bring you back to reality) but the weather over the last week has made it even more so. We've had torrential showers, high winds, and sunshine; clear evenings that have me reaching for a pair of socks followed by overcast humid days where the atmosphere feels muggy and oppressive. How we fill these last days of the holidays depends so much on the weather, too. We've had beautifully warm seaside walks and ice creams, but have also spent the wetter days doing admin, shopping, DIY....there is always something, and I am trying to get as much as possible done now to ease the pressure once term starts.

The leaves everywhere on the ground trick me into thinking we're a month further on than we really are. I think it's more to do with a dry summer and high winds than the onset of autumn, but it's a little unsettling.

I was delighted to discover a mini harvest of tomatoes in the garden after our holiday. They are misshapen and imperfect, but the smell and flavour is so strong. It's not enough to make chutney, but I think I will roast them all with a couple of cloves of garlic and a red onion, then blitz them all into a pasta sauce. 

We've been picking blackberries, always my favourite thing to do at this time of year. I have ten jars of jelly and five bags of fruit in the freezer ready to be added to crumbles. I just love the feeling of stocking up the cupboard and freezer for autumn and winter ahead that this season brings! 

I made a batch of brownies last week, following my usual recipe but throwing in a handful of frozen raspberries at the last minute. I thought they were the best ones I'd made, the sharp raspberries contrasting so well with the sweet chocolate. The rest of this household, however, behaved like I'd added salt not sugar, and said I'd ruined perfectly good cake. You can't please everyone.

A loaf of sourdough bread was much more well received though. I hadn't used my starter for a couple of months so was relieved to see it did what it was supposed to. I'm still a little bit astounded when I manage to bake a good sourdough loaf if I'm honest.

I saw my friend Abigail recently and she gave me the most beautiful bunch of flowers, a mixture of stems she'd picked at a PYO field plus dahlias she'd grown herself. I think it's the loveliest bunch of flowers I've ever had and I was so sad when I had to put them in the compost bin.

John and I have been busy since we got home, sanding and oiling our new doors. I'm over the moon with them, I feel like they give every room a lift. The three doors between kitchen, hall and living room are glass to help more light into darker areas, but the rest are plain solid oak with black handles. 

I have been crocheting a round cushion cover over the last few evenings, and am thoroughly enjoying the simplicity of the stitches, just variations of granny trebles really. Very relaxing.

I wanted to show you some of the treasures I bought back from our recent holiday. We came across the most wonderful second hand and vintage place in Rye, a real treasure trove with everything piled high here and there. Outside, they had this box of muddy earthenware, all dug up from the Rye estuary apparently.

At £1 a pot, I bought a few and they scrubbed up really well. I love the cracks and imperfections, I think it just adds to their charm and character.

I bought some divine chocolate from here which is probably some of the nicest chocolate I've ever had. I'm savouring it, making it last.

Of course, I had to keep my eyes open for any possible Observer books....

and found a couple of treasures.

This blue and white print, below, I bought in Dungeness. It's a cyanotype print of Derek Jarman's house, Prospect Cottage, and I love the depth of the blue colour. It just needs a frame.

This is my favourite though - a bowl from Rye Pottery, a place I'd researched before we went and had already fallen in love with their stripy range. It's the perfect size to hold my eggs on the worktop, or maybe lemons. I love it.

I really love to bring bits and bobs back from holidays for the house as I feel it all tells a story and adds interest, but it's even better if we can spend money in some independent shops and help support some local businesses in a small way while we are there.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Heatwave Holiday

Hello! We are back from a wonderful break in East Sussex which happened to fall during one of the hottest weeks in the UK for some years. We are all tanned and I keep finding sand in the bottom of bags and shoes - I feel like we've been abroad. It's lovely. We stayed in a self catering house in Camber Sands (nice beach, not so sure about the rest of it) which was about five minutes from the beach. Our days fell into a gentle rhythm of exploring the local area in the mornings before it got too hot, going home for lunch, then heading over to the beach in the afternoon for a couple of hours.

Sometimes we'd go back to the beach again in the evening when it was cool for a walk, although by the time we'd staggered over the dunes there and back you didn't feel very cool.

Probably my favourite part of the holiday was our visit to Dungeness.

It's a huge shingled beach (Britain's only desert!) which is home to a nuclear power station, and is often called "bleak", but it has a strange, otherworldly charm and and sparse beauty. I was quite taken with it. A long road runs for a couple of miles from the village to the lighthouses, with the sea on one side and shingle on the other, and along this road are lots of single storey wooden houses - some almost shacks - with power cables running from one to the next. 

A few are holiday homes but many are lived in year round, and a community of artists has evolved over the years. 

One of the most well known properties here is Prospect Cottage, formerly home to film maker Derek Jarman.

It's certainly a place to go if you are seeking solitude. Scattered across the huge beach are boats - some in use, others abandoned - and fishing detritus, shipping containers and all manner of strange and fascinating things. 

Rye was also a treat, the prettiest town absolutely packed with history. 

We really enjoyed wandering around the cobbled streets and exploring the lovely independent shops, stopping for iced coffee. It was so lovely we went twice and I'd happily go again tomorrow.

This photo below is Rye Pottery where we made a few purchases - I will show you another time.

I think Bella and Angus enjoyed exploring these new places as much as the adults. Angus had found a free map of Rye in the holiday let we were staying in and was very keen to tell us where to go.

They both enjoyed popping into shops, spending their holiday money on sticks of rock and books and other random bits and bobs, and so long as there were frequent opportunities for ice creams or milkshakes it was all good. 

Rye is one of those places where around every corner there is something interesting or quirky or unusual to catch your eye. This window was a particular delight.

The night before we went to Hastings the unbearably humid, hot weather led to some thunderstorms during the night.

I tried to get a photo of the storm but this was the best I could do from the balcony. The storm didn't really clear much of the humidity and the weather in Hastings was still hazy and oppressive with grey skies and rain out to sea.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Hastings (a friend of ours grew up there and rarely had anything positive to say about the place) but the Old Town part felt vibrant and was buzzing with people sitting outside cafes or wandering around the streets. We bought Cornish pasties for lunch and ate them by the car near the beach, surrounded by sea gulls. 

They are a bit of a pest in this area; noisy, very bold and aggressive in groups. But so long as you don't feed them (or leave your lunch out while you go for a swim!) you're ok. 

It was a really wonderful, relaxing week away. I took lots of craft projects with me and didn't do much of anything as it was too hot, but I read a lot and relaxed and feel rested. I think that the children have had a good holiday and it was especially lovely to watch them swimming in the sea every day, something we rarely get the weather to do in the UK. Now that we're home, the weather has been quite wet and changeable (just when I want to do lots of washing!) but the rain is welcome and the garden already looks greener. We had a bit of work done on the house while we were away and I will show you photos soon, along with the holiday souvenirs we brought home with us. But now we have two weeks of holiday left before school and work start up again and I am determined to make the most of them, starting with some blackberry picking today.