Sunday, 26 March 2017

Going down in flames

It fell to the littlest boy to choose an outing this weekend. He had had a couple of weekends trailing round behind bigger brothers, so he was allowed to pick where we went. He chose the beach, one of his favourite places. He took his spade and dug holes and made friends with dogs and tried to stop the sea coming in and pleaded unsuccessfully for an ice-cream.

We got fish and chips instead and sat and watched the sunset. I always love to watch a sunset. I take big breaths and think deep thoughts about how we only get to watch a certain amount of sunsets. I like to fully appreciate each one that I get to watch.

The evening was enlivened a little by a dramatic fire on the seafront. Apparently someone set a shed on fire and it spread and a whole flat went up in flames. No injuries thankfully.

A few years ago the pier went up in spectacular fashion. The one in the pictures is the rebuild. Hopefully now with functioning alarm system.

When I haven't been strolling along promenades, eating chips and watching sunsets I've been pressing on with the whole writing thing. Writing articles here and there, and a little editing too last week. It's hard work breaking into the world of freelance writing, but slowly, slowly I'm, well, not getting there, but just doing little things from time to time.

It's hard to maintain momentum (or even hope) at times, but for now it's what I'm doing. We shall see how it goes. I don't have any unrealistic expectations, which is good. Just, you know, giving it a go.

Anyway, that's that. Did you all have a good weekend with a little spring sunshine? In fact, down at the beach there was a howling gale. Sand in my hair, my teeth, a layer of skin nicely exfoliated. Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. Wishing all a good week. CJ xx

PS. I'm over on Jo's blog, How to Hygge the British Way this week, if you'd like a look.

Saturday, 11 March 2017


Spring is in the air no? The return of Gardener's World is the surest sign of it I think. I do so like the programme now that it's just Monty Don in his lovely garden. Couldn't stand the Top Gear style joshing that it was starting to degenerate into before when Joe Swift was on all the time. I love the peace and calmness that is Monty, trailed by Nigel and Nell, wandering about, clipping things down here, pegging them up there. No ridiculous wittering on, no stupid banter. Just Monty and a dog or two.

The filming is always delicious. Close ups of flowers and raindrops and bees and frogs. It never fails to inspire me. Beth Chatto was on last night, in her divine garden. She made her own tiny lake with a rowing boat on it. Happy sigh.

The boys discovered newts in our little wildlife pond this morning. Honestly, we were all so excited. Build it and they will come. There is so much frogspawn now. Apparently newts eat it, and also the tadpoles when they emerge. Maybe that's why newts have appeared.

I got the box of seeds down yesterday and had a rummage through. Time to start popping things in I think. I got out sweet peas and sunflowers to start with. The tomatoes are already in. I like to get some sugar snaps in quite early, and I've got the radishes out to direct sow. There's rocket ready to eat in the garden already, peppery and delicious. Let the gardening begin.

Friday, 3 March 2017

To knit or not to knit and to crochet instead

A brief sunny spell in the garden. Blueberry buds, frogspawn and fresh rocket leaves. But not much else. I still haven't sown any seeds so far this year. Quite often I go too early and end up with windowsills full of little plants stretching towards the sun. I'm trying later dates this year, we'll see if they catch up.

I am trying to settle into the deprivation that is Lent. No snacks except fruit, no salty deliciousnesses, no sugar. Sigh. It will take me a while. I am still in the bleak phase at the moment. I told the biggest boy my life was empty and meaningless on Day 1. I may have been overdramatising. (I don't really mean it, of course I don't, you know how I like to be ridiculous.) I shall of course get into the swing of it all and hopefully feel all the better for it.

On the knitting front I have come to a halt with The Black Thing. The body is done, it just needs arms, but I'm just not feeling it right now. Apologies for the picture, it has a darkness about it which does not like to be photographed. It's like some sort of black hole sucking in all the light.

I found some odd bits of yarn in much happier colours. Spring if you will.

I'm thinking a small blankety thing for the living room in winter. For those days when a hot water bottle isn't enough, or for early mornings when the little people come downstairs to read and it's chilly.

Alicia is making a lovely one here (scroll down to the last picture). I happened upon it as the yarn sat in front of me being considered. But I'm not sure if I can do a whole one in crochet. It's a funny thing isn't it, how most people favour either knitting or crochet. I'm more of a knitter. It's relaxing, up and down and back and forth. I find crochet a bit more of an effort, probably because I'm less used to it. But the texture, it's lovely. I'm torn. Thoughts? I'm also aware that crochet seems somehow to use more yarn.

The weekend is upon us again. There will of course be football to be watched, come rain or shine (the weatherman says rain) and believe it or not the first cricket practice. That surely marks the start of spring. Have a good couple of days, I shall wish some sun for you.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Call me Totty

I did some repotting on the odd sunny day last week. Taking out a couple of old battered pots that the children had managed to break and replacing them with nice new ones. Let's see how long they last. There's plenty to do in the garden, things I probably should have done before really. Bits of pruning and weeding and lifting the last of the carrots.

Suddenly spring is just around the corner. There must be at least a dozen frogs in our little wildlife pond and a few in the street as well, looking for somewhere to call home. Sadly there aren't enough ponds about for them all. The peach tree will be in blossom before too much longer. And I'm really hoping that birds nest in one of the two nest boxes we can see from the house. One is in our garden, one in our neighbours'. Ours is rather plain wood, with a slight patina of age around the edges. The neighbours' is a beautiful new silver birch one with gleaming white bark and a smart roof. It's not a competition or anything though...

It's been a quiet weekend here, although the boys have made me laugh quite a bit over one thing and another. Most of it very silly. The littlest boy got to go to the rugby this afternoon, just a local match, but he loved it. Then we came home and watched The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I'd forgotten how funny Wallace and Gromit are, the writing is absolutely delicious and the details are fantastic. I particularly like the Were-Rabbit one because it's all about vegetable growing. Lady Tottington ('Call me Totty') has the most amazing greenhouse on top of her stately home filled with tomatoes and lettuces and chillies and butterflies, oh it's divine. And the rabbits are in a league of their own. Do watch it if you get the chance. Children not necessary.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

I have it nailed

We've practically lived at various skateparks this half term. The biggest boy has a skateboard and the other two have scooters, and right now they're quite obsessed. I can either watch  from the car or, even better, from a heated cafe. Oh the luxury. As you know, many of the things they like involve me standing out in the freezing cold and the mud somewhere. This week has been such a delicious novelty. Warmth AND a sit down. Well, hours and hours and hours of sitting down in fact. I could maybe have done with a little more exercise. But picture this: me, car, hot drink, cookie, good book, no interruptions. I have parenting absolutely nailed.

I spent some time watching as well as reading. Some skateboarders and scooterers can do some seriously impressive tricks. The prize for the most dangerous thing goes to those stunt bikes I think. I saw two really nasty falls from them. No ambulance needed, but a serious amount of pain and no doubt some very impressive bruises.

One of the skateparks was near a library, so I made a quick foray inside. One of the librarians normally works at my local library and recognised me. I am slightly embarrassed at how often I go to the library and at how many books we borrow. And now I've been seen at another library, so they will know that I go there as well. But oh the books, the books. Can't help myself. I picked out a mountain of things for the children to read and tried to walk past nonchalantly, but really, it looked as though I was ransacking the place. They do get through a lot though. Quite often they have finished one between the time we get home and when I get the tea on the table. We are book people! I tell myself it is good for the library statistics in these times of cuts.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sugar and ... more sugar

The seedheads have been picked clean and the birds are flocking round feeders wherever they find them. Lots of energy used in these cold February days. I can attest to that having spent my share of hours outside. I'm always extra hungry after a morning in the chilly wind. Load up on fat where you can find it, that's my motto.

The middle boy's birthday is approaching this week. Eleven already. He is such a sweet quiet chap. No trouble at all. Well, almost none. We spent the morning at home together today while the others were out. Honestly, there was silence almost the whole time. We are the quiet people!

We're also absolutely terrible at making our minds up about things. We have to weigh up ALL of the possibilities, think it out thoroughly. We cannot be rushed. Even the tiny decisions. It all has to be thought through and agonised over. We have to get it right. Some other people don't understand this. But we do. Anyway, in a triumph of decisiveness he has actually chosen his birthday cake in advance. Normally we would still be weighing up the merits of carrot cake versus Victoria sponge at this point.

He has chosen Nigella's ice-cream cake. It's a hell of a recipe. Take a tub of ice-cream and throw in all sorts of naughtiness. I feel a bit peculiar just thinking about it. But it really is rather good, and I'm not even a great lover of ice-cream (it's too cold - I have been known to warm mine up in the microwave). This has hot chocolate sauce poured over it. I know, I know, but it's only once a year.

I'm already planning what to give up for lent. Sugar, soya and I'm thinking gluten. I've toyed with giving up gluten before but it seems like it might be a tricky thing. I eat lots of oats and bread and things. But I'm curious to know whether I'd feel different. So I think I shall give it a go. Corn tortillas, rye* sourdough and rice noodles might be the way to go. I'm looking forward to it, in a masochistic sort of way. But please don't remind me that I said that when I only last until lunchtime on day 1. I have form.

How are things with you? Any big cakes planned? Or are you all about the vegetables?

* Oops, apparently not gluten free. A little research needed first I think.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Dog days of winter

I'm enjoying these last days of winter before the spring madness begins. Eating up last year's harvests from the freezer and planning what to grow next year.

I found an inspiring allotment book at the library, all about a group of villagers in Devon who found their own piece of land and started an allotment group. It's in a sublime position, looking out over the sea. They've worked so hard and created some really gorgeous productive plots.

The seed order arrived from the allotment association. I tried very hard not to go overboard. I still have a box full of things, and no doubt I'll go to the seed swap too. I'll probably sow tomatoes later on this month, and then it will all begin again.

In the meantime I'm sticking close to home though, avoiding the wind and rain when I can and writing and doing the usual busy things. I always wonder in the winter how there is ever time to tend a garden in spring and summer, but somehow I always seem to make a few hours here and there. I do love having a break from it all though.

Outside it is sodden but I can see a few buds beginning to swell. It won't be long now before things are moving. This is the month that the swans head back to Siberia. The natural world can feel the world turning back towards the sun. But for now I'm quite happy inside, just for a bit longer.