2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work

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End of May

My favourite time of year.

IMG_1390Golden laburnum and blue skies…

IMG_1391Wild flower patch growing like crazy…

IMG_1395Poppies with petals like stained glass…

IMG_1397And the geometrical perfection of alliums…

IMG_1398In a month or so it’ll be starting to look slightly tired, but at the moment you can almost see the stems growing, the buds unfurling and feel everything hurtling towards midsummer. June – we’re ready and waiting.


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Baby starling bonanza

IMG_1371IMG_1378IMG_1379The baby starlings are everywhere at the moment. Bobbing about in the cherry tree, ricocheting off the hawthorn and shouting constantly for more and more food. Their parents were delighted when we threw out some bread this morning as it gave them chance to just stay in one place and stuff as much food as they could down their greedy little mouths. The pics are a bit blurred as I was shooting through the patio door, but didn’t want to frighten them off!

The babies actually seem bigger than the adults, but that’s not really surprising as the adults seem to be wearing themselves into a frazzle keeping up with their offspring’s demands…

Late sun gave me the chance to take some shots of the garden – cow parsley is in full flower now and the alliums are just coming out too.



Herbs are settling nicely into their new pots as well – won’t have to get wet feet going down the garden now on a rainy day if just need a few handfuls for tea.


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Sunshine cake

It seemed the best possible use for a rainy day – Strawberry and Pistachio Revani from the Clandestine Cake Club book, a lovely almondy/polenta cake soaked with a syrup made from strawberries, honey and orange juice and sprinkled with pistachios. Incredibly easy and really delicious.

IMG_1364I’d never heard of a revani but a quick Google told me it was a traditional Turkish dessert. And now destined to become a tradition in our house as well! Very nice with our customary 4.30 freshly brewed coffee.

IMG_1365The recipe said it served 15 but that was clearly just nonsense as the two of us polished off a quarter between us with no difficulty whatsoever.

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Food in the sun

Except for breakfast, we’ve had every meal outside today. I went for a run first thing, the sun shone non-stop, I got my containers planted up with lemon balm, rosemary, thyme, mint and other surplus garden plants, and we lazed and basked in the garden till the midges got a bit too persistent.

Made the tomatoes with garlic and cream for tea – really easy meal for a hot day. Cut large tomatoes into thick slices, put in a single layer in a baking dish and pour over a small pot of double cream, season. Bake at Mark 7 for 20 mins. Mix together 50g grated cheddar, 25g parmesan, pinch dried chilli flakes, 1 crushed garlic clove and 1 tbsp chopped basil, sprinkle over the whole dish once baked, and finish under a hot grill for about 5 mins till it’s all golden with a few crispy bits.


Serve with lots of crusty bread. And wine. And sit in the sun preferably.


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This weekend, I shall be mostly:

  • Gardening – planning on getting my front garden tidied up and the pots in the back garden ready for fresh plantings
  • Cooking – got my eye on a strawberry and pistachio cake, and some tomatoes baked with basil, garlic and cream
  • Running – trying to make up a month’s idleness  – oops!
  • Walking – the forecast’s sunny but cold so shall be soaking up as many rays as I can
  • Reading – currently enjoying The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, Lost At Sea by Jon Ronson (great unusual true stories from the journalist who wrote ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’), Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe (refreshing take on meditation) and rereading the Twilight saga (love a bit of escapism!)
  • Knitting – still working on my shawl
  • Sleeping in – been up by 6.30 all week so the alarm is being firmly turned off this weekend
  • Keeping the peace – the starling/cat wars have been breaking out today all over the garden – Tilly is utterly rubbish at hunting but baby birds bouncing everywhere are a bit too much temptation even for her. We caught her eyeball to eyeball with one on the garden bench this afternoon and neither of them seemed to want to look away first. He flew off when I approached and she went and attacked a pine cone to show that she can hunt, really.

IMG_1178I’m not convinced, personally.

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Afternoon off

Hit a sudden pause in my workload today after a lot of long days and suddenly thought ‘Ooh – I can have an afternoon off!’. The sun had come out, it was wild and blustery and so we headed down to the nature reserve by the beach for a bracing walk. It’s usually fairly sheltered in the dunes, but even there you couldn’t totally get away from the strong, cold gales. Lovely to see how much everything had come on though since my last visit. There’s one hollow that is full of cowslips at this time of year, and it’s the only place they grow in the whole area.

IMG_1346Hard to believe they were once so common that people made wine from them. The only time I ever saw them when I was growing up was on a holiday in Yorkshire, and I still get a kick out of seeing so many near where I live. So much blossom today – first apple…

IMG_1349And then lilac – 3 huge trees of it all close together, so the scent was just amazing, even the wind couldn’t blow it all away.

IMG_1352I never skived off school as a kid, but it felt like a kind of guilty pleasure to be out today enjoying the sun and the flowers and the wildness of it all while others were stuck at their desks. But really it was an earned pleasure and I didn’t need to feel guilty at all – I’d worked hard all week and could afford to take the time out.

Still quite like the naughty feeling though 🙂

Came home to the cherry tree full of dozens of young starlings out on their first flight and shouting their heads off – I’d have picked a calmer day personally to launch mysef into space on baby wings, but each to their own. Maybe they just felt like getting out there into the sunshine too.

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Four seasons in one day

IMG_1333The scent from the blubells in this vase at the moment is so lovely when you walk in the room – like faint hyacinths. Once the cow parsley and columbines (aquilegias) start to open, it’s like a sign that summer’s on the way, but it’s still spring for now. Picked these first thing yesterday, the green leaves are lemon balm.

IMG_1341Columbines are incredibly promiscuous and all the ones we have in the garden are descended from two originals – over the years they’ve produced stacks of offspring with different amounts of doubling.

IMG_1342This picture shows where the common name columbine comes from – columba is Latin for dove, and people thought that each flower petal looked very much like a dove, with a pointed head and fanned out tail.

The weather was scorching in the afternoon, and I thought it was going to be too warm to bake a cake, but the temperature dropped as evening came on and so tried a new recipe for a pear, hazelnut and chocolate cake. Pear and hazelnut seem like quite autumnal flavours to me, but I wasn’t averse to trying it anyway. Really lovely, although it did stick like mad in the tin so I ended up making the bottom the top! Not glamorous, but it didn’t affect the taste at all I’m happy to say (will take a photo of an entire cake one day).

IMG_1343And by bedtime it was as cold as winter so we got the hot water bottle out again. Wish the weather would settle down so that I can stop changing clothes several times a day!