Sunday, 16 May 2021

Cake and Flowers

It's all go here. I feel like we continue to hurtle through the year with all the weather being thrown at us at the same time, dodging showers, wrapping up against cold winds and being grateful for the occasional glimpse of the sun.

In between the hustle and bustle of everyday life (which seems to have reached new levels of busy lately) we celebrated Angus's twelfth birthday.

The cake was a team effort, baked by me and decorated by Bella. We had pancakes for breakfast and family popped in after school with presents and cards. His favourite present was pair of binoculars which we took up to the top of Portsdown Hill where the views over Portsmouth and surrounding harbour are good.

It was a wet day and there weren't many birds to look at (apart from seagulls and crows) so we watched the boats coming in and out of the harbour instead.

Peony seasons is upon us and I'm remembering how much I adore them, what pleasure they bring.

Over the course of a week, these went from bright, tight balls of hot pink to a faded apricot, and opened up into the most fabulous blowsy shape that looked like something from an oil painting.

I'm gardening whenever the weather allows it, nipping out for an hour here or there after work or at the weekend. The garden is lush and the borders are full but lacking in colour. Apart from some tulips in a trough, all my spring flowers have gone over but the summer tones haven't quite arrived yet. It feels later this year, no doubt because we've had such a cold spring. 

There is colour waiting in the background though - my New Dawn climbing rose has grown a lot since I planted it last summer and I'm optimistic for lots of flowers this year. 

There are also rhododendron bushes on the cusp of blooming, as well as Bowles Mauve perennial wallflowers. alliums and bluebells, giving an unintentional purple theme to the border. Waiting in the wings are foxgloves, hollyhocks and poppies, plus large, deep tubs filled with sweet peas. 

I also have a cold frame bursting with cosmos, zinnias (although they aren't looking too good since I repotted them), sunflowers and dahlias. No thoughts to a gardening "scheme", or colours, or shapes, or a particular look - just my usual enthusiasm over knowledge and enjoying the process. A good reminder that I garden for myself, not others, and that gardening always brings such a feeling of peace and satisfaction.

Last summer my dad built us this brilliant bird table. John has been keeping it well stocked with meal worms and suet all through the winter and spring, and watching our visitors has been one of life's simple pleasures. We regularly see blackbirds, robins, thrushes, blue tits and great tits and the occasional goldfinch. The magpies, although much bigger, are clever enough to squeeze in for a snack. The pigeons, although just as big, are not, and sit on the roof, knowing the food is nearby, but whenever they try to reach for the food they slide off. It amuses us.

I am still plugging away at my patchwork quilt and crochet top in the evenings, and working on my A Stitch A Day sampler at the weekends. Seven stitches on a Saturday might be a more accurate title. Another reminder of how we are racing through this year. 

I attempted some visible mending last weekend, when my favourite jeans ripped right across the back under the bum.

I patched them on the inside with a piece of denim from a pair of jeans Bella had outgrown, stitched around the hole to prevent further fraying then reinforced the whole area with straight stitch in embroidery thread in a vertical pattern.  I like the way it turned out, and since they've just gone on the knee, too, I guess I have some more sewing to do.

It's been raining on and off all day and now it's stopped it's time to take the dog out and get some fresh air and exercise. Wishing you all a good week. 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Rushing through April

A friend who is an early years teacher said she read somewhere that teachers of that age group are asked up to 3000 questions a day. I don't know it that is true but after a hectic - and, I must emphasise, very enjoyable - first two weeks in a Y2 placement I think it could certainly feel that way. My feet have barely touched the ground since the Easter holidays and the days have been so long, but here are a few of the things keeping me grounded and making me smile.

The emerging tulips I planted last autumn. When will I learn with bulbs - plant more! However many you think you want, plant double or triple. Nothing looks more beautiful than a swathe of tulips with their wobbly heads of boiled-sweet colours.

Blossom against a blue sky, although don't let the colour fool you into thinking it's warm - the wind has been cold and sharp and we are still regularly waking to frosts. I had to switch the heating on the other night.

John making brioche french toast for breakfast. There is no better kind of french toast. (Thinking about french toast always reminds me of eggy bread, which I used to eat growing up. It's basically still bread soaked in egg and fried, but savoury, and best eaten with bacon and ketchup. I need to make some eggy bread.)

A new recipe from my newest cookery book, One, by Anna Jones. It's mostly one pot or pan meals and all vegetarian. This is a sort of saag aloo Shepherd's Pie: beans in a curry-based sauce topped with potatoes, caulflower and spinach mashed together. I loved it but sadly no-one else so I happily ate the leftovers for lunch all week.

Much more successful was this warm salad I made for the windiest barbecue we've ever had but the weather was so nice I was determined to try to eat outside. Roasted butternut squash mixed with couscous, chicory, feta and pomegranate seeds. Delicious.

This steadily growing pile of granny square for this top. Granny squares are proving to be the perfect crochet for after work at the moment, it's all my brain can cope with.

A stitch a day, or more often seven at the weekend, whatever works. I am still loving this record of the year so far. 

Highlights include Easter, first visits to shops and the library, takeaway coffees and "cruffins" (croissant muffins) in the park, variable weather, gardening, flowers, using the pizza oven, signs of spring, DIY, yoga and spring cleaning. A mixed month.

The bluebells. Even on the grayest day these purple-blue wildflowers look so pretty when glimpsed through a hedgerow. This year they were not such the carpet of blue  they have been on previous years, but still one of my favourite signs of spring.

Seeing people playing cricket this afternoon. Such a small sigh of normal life returning, it made me happy.