2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work


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What I’ve gained from blogging

I’ve just realised that I’ve been writing this blog for a little over three months. I started it up when I went full time self-employed at the start of April, so that I’d have another focus besides my developing business. So three months on, has it worked? Absolutely. The blog has helped me to be mindful, noticing the beautiful, quirky and fun things that make up my life, in a way that other things I’ve tried (like gratitude journals) haven’t. It’s helped me get into new things – like photography, and rediscover old passions – like gardening. And it’s introduced me to fellow bloggers the world over: I honestly had no idea of the size of the bloggiverse (or indeed if that’s even a word!) and have been constantly delighted and given new inspiration by the many, many creative people out there. Thanks so much, everyone!

Today has been a really lovely day, starting with baking a rhubarb and custard cake. This is a really easy recipe though it looks different each time I make it – think it must depend on the juiciness of the rhubarb. Mine was very wet today after roasting it which made it sink a little.

Once it was out and cooling, we set off for a walk as justification for pigging ourselves later. We went to a bit of the coast about 3 miles from where we live that I’ve not been to in years, although my other half goes running round there a fair bit and has been telling me for ages how much it’s improved. I was staggered – what used to be a fairly grotty bit of beach has been left to regenerate and develop its natural dune system, and it’s absolutely stunning – full of flowers, insects, streams and lakes. I had no idea.

IMG_1601I’d never seen this plant before which was about the same height as me, but there were loads of clumps of it about. A bit of delving on Google images when I got home makes me think it’s garden angelica (Angelica archangelica) but if you know differently please let me know!

Also loads of seed pods of jack-go-to-bed-at-noon (that has got to be one of the best plant names ever: so called because the flowers shut at noon) which are so beautiful – very different to a dandelion clock when you look closely as the little umbrellas are all inside out.

IMG_1606And orchids again – masses and masses of deep red ones, which I also think are marsh orchids but very different from the ones we saw the other day. They do seem to be a really variable plant.

IMG_1592Loved this furry caterpillar too!

IMG_1597We ended up walking far further than we intended as it was so peaceful, realised we were absolutely starving and headed back to hit the cake 🙂 But we’ll definitely be going back again as it’s a huge area and there’s loads more to explore.

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Beauty on the doorstep followed by cake and good coffee – I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning. Hope your weekend was good too!

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Wild orchids

I can’t honestly remember a better year for seeing orchids than this one is turning out to be so far. We went for a walk today in a local nature reserve that used to just be a disused quarry when we were kids. Nature has now crept back in with a vengeance and it was beautiful wandering round today in the sunshine, seeing the tall birches, butterflies and flowers and hearing nothing but birds. We often go up there for the view – in the pancake flat area we live in, at only a couple of hundred feet up you get a panoramic view across the coastal plain.

IMG_1574The best view today however was inland – orchids. Hundreds of them, again in just one small patch, like yesterday.

IMG_1580These were a different sort to yesterday though, and were growing in what was clearly quite a marshy bit of ground. So we reckon these are marsh orchids, and were amazed at how tall they were – some must have been nearly a foot high.

IMG_1582The flowers are just amazing, and look so exotic all gathered together in one place. Orchids do seem to like old quarry sites – I remember years ago seeing huge patches of them on old spoil heaps from coal mines near the side of a motorway. But they’re almost impossible to grow yourself – though orchids produce thousands of seeds, apparently most are infertile and even the fertile ones sometimes have to co-exist with the right sort of fungi before they will grow and thrive. Which makes sights like this especially rare and beautiful, and I always worry that people may not appreciate them properly by picking them, or worse, digging them up, and not realise what a scarce and wonderful plant they are damaging. But today, they were magnificent in their abundance.


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The joys of skiving off

Well, it wasn’t really skiving…I worked all weekend, so firmly closed the laptop at 12 and headed off out to get some air. Bitterly cold wind so we planned a walk behind some big dunes, hoping for a bit of shelter. We didn’t find shelter, but we did find…orchids!

IMG_1558I’ve never seen orchids in this particular bit of the dunes before, and all of them were growing on just one small dune. According to my book I think this is a pyramidal orchid – there were about 20 of them. But then I was beyond excited as we saw something I’ve never seen before – a bee orchid.

IMG_1562Apologies for the blurriness – the wind was so strong they kept moving! But was so excited to see one that I wanted to share it with you. We spotted four altogether. Really great day for wild flowers, loads of sea holly too:

IMG_1557Windswept and happy, we followed the walk up with a picnic of cheese and onion pies in the car, had a browse round a bookshop and the library, and headed home for a bask in the garden. Total cost of afternoon: under £2.00. Satisfaction levels – priceless.


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Poppies

IMG_1542Self seeded opium poppy growing in a crack in our patio.

IMG_1544Black and white oriental poppy I grew from seed…

IMG_1545…and a scarlet one I grew from seeds that my late mum-in-law gave me when we first got this garden twenty years ago.

IMG_1546Yes, I know it’s an iris, and the title of this post is a bit misleading, but the bee was so cute and they are such stunning plants to photograph!

IMG_1547Been in front of a laptop or in meetings in a room with no windows today, so lovely to come home, appreciate the flowers in the garden before the rain arrives, and go for a walk round the block. The air’s really still and warm, so we kept getting hits of honeysuckle, roses and night scented stock as we walked along, while swallows whirled above chasing insects. Lovely, peaceful wind down from a busy day.


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Patio living

Love being able to eat tea on the patio – we started out tonight with olive bread, tomato salsa with fresh mint, chives and basil from the garden and olive oil for dipping, and finished with briam. This is one of our favourite veggie dishes and this is the first time we’ve had it this year as we only make it when all the ingredients are really ripe and fresh.

IMG_1538It’s a layered veg bake of potatoes, masses of garlic, courgettes, red and green peppers, aubergines, red onions, tomatoes, passata, olive oil and lots of oregano. You just slice everything and layer it all up in that order in a big baking tin, cover with foil and cook for 1.5 hours at Gas Mark 5. It bakes down quite a lot – the tin in the picture was full when I covered it with the foil.  Serve sprinkled with feta cheese. It’s from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes which is an absolutely mouth-watering book. You can tell we’ve made this recipe lots as the page is completely splattered with many meals gone by! So lovely to sit in the sun and pretend we’re somewhere more exotic.

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Before tea we went for a walk down to the dunes and saw the first orchids of the year – still very small, but great they’re still there. We can never make our minds up what sort they are – think either pyramidal or marsh (they are growing in a wet area), but if you know for definite then please let us know!

IMG_1530The first wild roses were also out…

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…and as the perfect finale to the weekend, my other half is washing up while I’m typing this. Hope your weekend was good!


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Saturday sunshine

Saturday. Knitting group, food shopping, garden tidying and garden lounging as the sun came out and got stronger and stronger.

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Wish June would go on forever…

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IMG_1518Rounded off by tea of pasta with courgettes, garlic, pinenuts, marsala, sultanas and parmesan. Looks gross, tastes phenomenal. Slow cook 1 courgette in a little oil and butter with 1 clove garlic and a little seasoning for 35 mins till soft. Soak 25g sultanas in 25ml warmed marsala and stir into the courgettes at the end. Stir courgette mixture into 175g pasta and top with 12g toasted pinenuts and 50g grated parmesan. Serves 2 (can’t remember where the recipe came from – it’s not mine but I cook it a lot). Best served on a sunny patio with some chilled white wine. Close your eyes and the smell will make you think you’re in Italy.


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Wild gardening

Having recently got back into gardening, I’ve been looking back through my collection of gardening books that I’ve not touched for the last few years, and have just uncovered the gem below.

IMG_1514Isn’t the cover beautiful? Written in the 80’s, it’s an account of the author’s garden on a large estate in Scotland that they bought after the days when there was a team of gardeners to run and manage it, and how they adopt a more ‘relaxed’ approach to dealing with the plants there (basically: if it isn’t poisonous, they eat it).

IMG_1516It’s a brilliant read, it just meanders along, beautiful drawings of plants and insects interspersed with really interesting writing and anecdotes (such as their efforts to make rhubarb champagne without it exploding, and finding that a plastic dustbin full of this only lasted them for 3 months). I’m reading it in bed at the moment and am driving my other half nuts by constantly interrupting his reading to tell him new snippets of information I’ve gleaned.

I definitely like the wild garden concept – mine is not one where you will ever see neat spaces of soil between plants, but it does mean it’s less work to keep the weeds down, and the birds and insects seem to like it. And in the spirit of the book above, I’m thinking of making some rose petal jelly in the next week or so – our two Rosa rugosa bushes are in full bloom and the scent is just magical.

IMG_1505This is the deep pink one I’m thinking of using, ‘Roseraie de L’Hay’, as it’ll make the jelly a nicer colour than the other one we have, which is pure white. These are great roses, they flower like mad, smell fantastic, don’t need pruning and never get diseases.

IMG_1508It’s all getting a bit lush in the garden right now…but I like it that way…and at least now I know I can eat half of it to keep it in check! What’s your favourite nibble from your garden?