Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Easing into summer

We're sliding easily into these summer days. Entertaining ourselves variously with learning fancy knots, painting birds along with an online course, working out the costings for a lunar theme park, listening to Yngwie Malmsteen's arpeggios from hell (guitar practice inspiration), reading "The Sausage Dog of Doom" and wondering if we could survive a couple of nights in a tent. We could, couldn't we? Although I fear I'm not ready for "No showers; well ventilated compost toilet". Actually the trick will be finding somewhere that has vacancies. I'm mulling it over.

I had another bash at making blackcurrant cordial today. You may vaguely recall the great blackcurrant disaster of 2014 but I'm older and wiser now and I have a new method of straining things. It didn't go entirely smoothly, but it wasn't nearly as catastrophic as last time. There was spillage, but only on the stove top. By 2018 I shall have it completely perfected.

How is the summer treating you? Any plans for adventure, or are you happily ensconced at home? Will you be having a nice break somewhere, and will you at any stage find yourself in a well ventilated compost toilet? Let's hear the details.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

1. Photos from a stroll up a nearby mountain. Well, more of an anthill really but we pretended it was a mountain. Isn't the countryside beautiful at the moment.

2. Flowers from a verge in town. I've seen a lot more of this sort of planting this year, along with unmown verges filled with insect friendly plants. Have local authorities finally caught on do you think? I do hope so.

3. Enjoying July. Enough heat to make skin turn salty. Sports day with the thick smell of sunscreen and lots of drama. Nothing quite compares to the Year R (4 and 5 year olds) skipping race.

4. The allotment has got away from me this year. I'm being marvellously calm about it all. What's the worst that can happen? I have courgettes, what more could I need.

5. Bracing myself for the start of the summer holidays. It will be lively, no doubt about it. The littlest boy brought sweets home from school and gave a whole packet to each brother. He really does love them so much, he gives them a big hug in the mornings sometimes when he first sees them. After he gave out the sweets there was a bit of an altercation. The biggest boy said to him, "You know the tangy bit on the outside of these sweets? It's made of pug." It's amazing how they know the very worst thing to say isn't it. I've told them we will be concentrating on being lovely to each other all summer. Wish me luck with that.

Hoping you all have a very good summer weekend.

Saturday, 16 July 2016



A picnic in the park, where some sort of sheep-related event was taking place. The Jacob had the most fantastic horns, really good to see. Then a walk up on the common in the gathering gloom. It was cool and breezy, not good butterfly weather. It's normally a great place to see them, but I think they were hunkering down. Is anyone doing The Big Butterfly Count? I think we might give it a whirl. The allotment would probably be a good place to count them, there are usually quite a few flitting about down there.

I hear a heatwave is coming next week. I'm trying to remember if we have a functioning paddling pool and wondering if there's room for ice-cream in the freezer.

Thank you for all of your book suggestions, I've made a list and I shall work my way through. By chance a couple were already on my bookshelf, James Rebanks' "The Shepherd's Life" and Helen Dunmore's "Zennor in Darkness", so I'm starting with them. In fact I think I shall go and sink into one right now. Wishing you a good Sunday. CJ xx

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Your best book please

Do you ever stand in front of a bookshelf and find it impossible to find anything at all that you fancy reading? I often have moments like that. I went to the library in a fog of post-referendum gloom and stomped up and down looking high and low for the right thing. Nothing.

In the end I found it at home on one of our many shelves - Dodie Smith's "I Capture The Castle". I hadn't read it before, and it took me a while to decide that I was really enjoying it. Now I'm completely absorbed and loving it. But I'm also near the end, and I know that it's even harder to find a good book when I've just finished an excellent one.

So I'm here to ask for recommendations. Which book would you recommend? Nothing too dismal, I struggle with dismal. But I shall be open minded about your suggestions. Which is your favourite? I'd love to know.

I'm reading Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord" to the children. It's excellent. Set in Venice, which I like a lot. And with a great cast of characters. I'm constantly blown away by fantastic children's books. A couple of years ago we decided to get on a "reading streak" like Alice Ozma. It's been one of the very best things I've done with the children. Every day without fail I sit down with the youngest two and read to them. We've discovered some fantastic books and there are always more on the pile that I can't wait to get to.

I photographed the Dodie Smith book on the quilt I'm working on. It's a paper pieced one and I've just about taken all the paper pieces out of it. It's gone from being big and unmanageable to being soft and easy to fold up. Now I've finished the top I need to sandwich the wadding between the top and the reverse and quilt it somehow. Always nice to see a long project coming together.

I hope all is well with you and that you're happily in the middle of a good book. I shall look forward to seeing your suggestions. CJ xx

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Summer garden abundance

There's the usual mixture of triumph and tragedy in the garden this year. The mice have had almost all the allotment strawberries. I think I shall take them out. I spent ages nurturing them last year and netting them this year, all to no avail. Every berry has gone now, ripe or unripe. I found piles of them rotting gently underneath the broad beans. Frustrating. The ground will be better used for something else. The garden strawberries have done quite well though. They're nearly at an end now. I haven't made any jam but we've had more strawberries and cream than you could shake a stick at.

The raspberries are ripening and I've picked masses of tayberries. Leafy things are doing well, especially the weeds, they've been absolutely phenomenal this year. The salad is making up for it though.

The wineberry flowers are buzzing with bees which surprised me a bit. They're tiny and its quite hard to spot when they're open, but the bees seem to know. It's good that the soft fruit is staggered slightly otherwise I'd be a bit overwhelmed.

Broad beans are doing their usual thing of all being ready at once. I've frozen quite a few although my favourite way to eat them is raw while they're still small and bright green. I've taken out the first lot of sugar snap peas and now it's a wait until the next batch are ready.

This time of year is a pleasure, when there's something from the plot or the garden at every meal. Blueberries or raspberries at breakfast time, handfuls of mixed salad leaves for lunch - sorrel, mustards, rocket and lettuce, then broad beans, courgettes or artichokes at dinner followed by something with the fruit.

Everything isn't perfect in the garden, there are no peaches at all this year, most of the cucumber plants didn't survive and the garlic has rust, but there are enough successes and good things to eat to make it all worthwhile. How is your growing going?

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Intriguing sights at the local carnival. I never did get to the bottom of the group of Spidermen. Some things are best left unexplored. Some people I didn't photograph. Middle-aged men in skintight fishnet and bright pink lycra might be a bit much for any of you contemplating breakfast.

Summer things are under way everywhere. Here in blogland everyone's gardens are looking phenomenal. I'm looking forward to the summer holidays. Right now it's a bit of a last minute frenzy of events. I was in Birmingham today with the middle boy at a music event. His little recorder group did brilliantly, we were so proud of them. Tomorrow there is some sporting thing or other, then there are outdoor Scouting things and cricket matches and parties, honestly, it's all a blur.

I do love these summer days, but I could do with a little more time. You know how it is. The allotment has run away with itself and is a giant mass of weeds. Of course, I could be down there now instead of sitting on the sofa talking to you, but right now that would involve effort and I seem to be in a little bit of a slump. Don't worry though, there are still courgettes. There will always be courgettes.

Hope all is well with you. Any motivational tips you would care to share will be well received. Failing that a courgette recipe will do.

One last thought. COME ON WALES.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Five on Friday

ten babies!

rain garden - looking aptly green
Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

1. Still in a state about the referendum result. So angry. Every day. Won't bang on about it, I know many of you are feeling the same. So much to be furious about. I do feel that I shouldn't harp on about it, but it's taking up a lot of my thinking time.

2. There's a very active running club here in our little town. Very active. Every other person on the school run is wearing lycra, it's most intimidating. Recently I've noticed that a big group of pigeons have started a flying club. Every few hours they suddenly appear and fly round and round in manic circles. Then they suddenly change directions, all at once. It's beautifully synchronised. How do they do it you suppose? Is there a lead pigeon that they all follow? Or are they all copying the one in front? How do they decide who's in charge? I have a theory that they are trying to slim down after eating all the thousands of fat balls that are left out for them. Have you seen how many they sell down at the garden centre? You can buy them by the trug. I like to yell "Flying Club!" every time they shoot past. Never gets old.

3. The littlest boy won an award at Beavers the other night. Three years ago the middle boy won the exact same award. Except that the littlest boy's is bigger in size. You have no idea how much satisfaction he gets from this. When I got up the other day I found he'd positioned his directly in front of his brother's so that his brother's was completely obscured from view. It's the little things that give us pleasure no?

4. Last weekend we went to the end of season night for the football club. It was in a big hall and everyone sat round quietly listening to the speeches and watching the presentations. The middle boy asked in a slightly weak voice if he could pop outside for a breath of air. I said yes. Before I knew it the littlest boy had shot off as well, and somewhere along the line the biggest boy managed to escape too. I slid quietly out to round them up. By the time I caught up with the littlest boy he was sobbing hysterically. Apparently a tree had hit him. The fire door had slammed behind us and we couldn't get back into the hall. The littlest boy had worked himself up to ear-splitting volume, what with the pain and the outrage about the tree, or at least I think that's what it was, most of it was unintelligible. All of the windows were open and I honestly could not get him to calm down. The middle boy had to go all the way round the building and all across the hall to let us in again. You can imagine the spectacle we made on re-entry after ten minutes of high-pitched shrieking outside the open window. Why me?

5. Leafing through the little local magazine today I had a bit of a shock. They have a habit of interspersing news of what's on with snippets of news from 200 years ago. In amongst the toy sales and yoga classes a headline proclaiming "Cholera is here!" caught my eye. My initial thoughts were something along the lines of "WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S HOLY NEXT?" Then I saw it was dated 1832. It appears we are all safe. From cholera at least.