2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work


September and new starts

IMG_2819Wow, that was a long break from blogging – work and life just kind of overtook me. But September always feels like a New Year to me, and so it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and get going on this again. Truth be told, the blog had been starting to feel a bit samey – having gone through a full year on it, I felt like I was going over old ground and wasn’t getting the same buzz out of posting that I had been. So I’m looking forward to getting started afresh, and sharing the things that bring joy to my life (apart from my OH as that would just get nauseating), which at the moment are:

  • Sewing – new hobby, but am inordinately proud of the messenger bag, tote bag and cushion that I’ve made recently. The curtains could have been a leap too far…
  • Cooking – great recent discovery was the blackberry, almond and cardamom cake in this month’s Simple Things (seriously good) by Signe Johansen. I just used the crushed seeds from 5 cardamom pods as I didn’t have any ground cardamom and it was perfect.
  • Being outdoors – walking in the dunes this year has been such a release (and was the source of the aforementioned blackberries)
  • Reading – recently rediscovered the ‘Merrily Watkins’ series by Phil Rickman and am re-reading them from the start – they are brilliant, hard to categorise stories – they’re often in the ‘crime’ section at the library but in fact are keenly observed stories with a supernatural undercurrent about Merrily’s work as a female vicar and ‘deliverance consultant’ (or ‘exorcist’) in the Welsh borders. Sounds a bit bizarre but they are wonderfully down to earth and believable – do try them if you’ve not come across them.
  • Inspirational stuff – haven’t come up with a better title than this for it at the moment, but I’ll just say that if you like listening to great speakers head for the Do Lectures, and for a great online read you can’t beat Holstee – their theme for September is ‘Balance’ and am so looking forward to reading it.

Happy September everyone!



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Productive Day

We had our regular blackberrying outing again this morning while the sun was putting in a brief appearance and will be heading to the kitchen shortly to get some crumble on.

IMG_1856It really is the season of berries – saw a blackbird this morning with his beak crammed full of yew berries:

IMG_1844I’ll be surprised if there are any of these left in the next few days. Oddly, the rose hips seem to stay on all winter – they look so attractive you’d think the birds would go straight for them, but not round here.

IMG_1846Had a go at making tomato relish this afternoon as the rain started, it was a Chantelle Grady recipe from the first edition of Simple Things magazine published last year. I’m not really sure how relish differs from chutney – I’m guessing less sugar, less boiling and therefore less keeping time – but it was so good it won’t be around long, trust me. This (tomatoes, apples, garlic, onion, vinegar, mustard, thyme, garam masala)…

IMG_1853 …turned into this after about 90 mins cooking.

IMG_1860We had it for tea with the courgette and potato fritters also featured in the same recipe – they were like a very decadent sort of bubble and squeak, using mashed potato mixed with grated courgette/egg/flour and an incredible amount of parmesan which, let’s face it, is never a bad idea, providing you don’t need to move again for the rest of the evening. Slight pause before that crumble, I think.


Good Things About Autumn No. 1

The sudden drop in temperature combined with gale force winds means that an afternoon’s baking no longer leaves me pouring with sweat and opening every door and window to cool down…and copious amounts of blackberries mean that it would be foolish not to use them up, right? So this afternoon was dedicated to blackberry, lemon and sour cream cake.

IMG_1810 The recipe was adapted from a Good Housekeeping one for blueberry and sour cream loaf. I swapped the blueberries for blackberries and the vanilla essence for lemon zest, and used more crumble topping – my usual blend of 50g plain flour with 50g butter rubbed in, 25g caster sugar stirred in at the end and a handful of flaked almonds. I didn’t have a 2lb loaf tin so used a 20cm springform tin and it turned out just fine cooked for the same length of time.


IMG_1812I can also report that it goes excellently with a cafetiere of coffee, particularly after a blustery walk along the pier to justify the reward.

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There’s something in the air…the sun’s still out but it feels warm rather than scorching and I’m not sure how many more times this year I’ll be wearing my flip flops.


Mushrooms appearing all over on our walk this afternoon, and the empty shells of horse chestnut cases in the park showed that some of the local kids are stocking up on conkers as part of their ‘back to school’ preparations.

IMG_1804And another excellent week for gathering blackberries, and lots of red ones still showing mean that hopefully there’ll be more for weeks yet to come…

IMG_1807…which provides many more opportunities to perfect my apple and blackberry crumble recipe 🙂


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Butterflies galore

Beautiful day from first thing today, with the dew thick on the lawn. All the drops sparkled different colours as the sun hit it – spent quite a while lying on the grass trying to capture it but think it’s beyond my photography skills!


After us saying earlier in the year that we’d never seen so few butterflies, the hot weather in July and August has certainly reversed that trend. There were literally hundreds of blue butterflies dancing around when we went for a walk by the lake yesterday – we even had them landing on our backs and heads!


IMG_1729It’s hard to see when they move around so fast, but there seemed to be lots of different types – you can see the two above have totally different markings. We went for a walk down the dunes before lunch today and there were even more, plus one I’d never seen before:

IMG_1752I think it’s a clouded yellow, but please let me know if you know butterflies well and I’m on the wrong track! Beautiful and peaceful down by the sea – the tourists were all up the other end by the candy floss stalls and ice cream vans. We came across a whole valley filled with rosebay willowherb – you can just see the back of my head in the top right of the picture below which gives you an idea of how tall they were.

IMG_1756Back home for a cup of tea and a slice of the blackberry and apple cake which turned out really well yesterday. Just a basic sponge – 175g of butter, sugar and flour with 3 eggs made by the creaming method. Stir in 1 cored and chopped apple and a load of blackberries at the end, then some more blackberries sprinkled on top and covered with a crumble mixture (50g flour and butter rubbed together with 25g sugar stirred in at the end with a handful of almonds and 1/4 tsp cinnamon). Baked in a 20cm springform at Gas 5 for 1 hr – honestly think it’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever made, really moist.

IMG_1734Hope you’re having a great Bank Holiday too!

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Back in the flow

Well, that was a long break. And I realised that a lot of the tension I’ve been feeling the last few weeks was down to not taking enough time out to pause and reflect – so, back to some therapeutic blogging. It has been such a fantastic summer this year – some of the August highlights below:

IMG_1698Great sunsets – we’re really lucky to live near the coast and so if it looks like it’s going to be a spectacular one (and often you can’t tell till the very last minute) it’s less than 5 minutes to nip down the road and watch it set over the beach and marshes. And if there’s no time to do even that, the garden makes a very nice backdrop.

IMG_1706Vibrant flowers – I love our native wild flowers and cottage garden plants, but there’s something about the bold splashes of colour you get from late summer flowers like Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’…

IMG_1708Shocking pink phlox – these are from a cutting from my mum’s garden, she’s grown them since I was at infant school.



Golden Heleniums – this is the first year I’ve grown these, bought a plant for 30p from a guy down the road and they’ve been flowering for weeks now.

IMG_1716And can’t wait for this sunflower to open! Just a chance seedling that came up in one of my pots, probably from feeding the birds in winter.

IMG_1715Delightful cakes – this was a raspberry strudel one I made a couple of weeks ago; last week I did a blackberry and nutella one and I’ve got a blackberry, apple and almond one in the oven as I type this. The blackberries will probably be a recurrent theme over the next few weeks as it looks like being a bumper crop.



Signs of autumn – yes, even though it’s hot outside, the rowan berries and rose hips are turning red already…and the air’s got that golden tinge to it that’s telling me to make the most of it while it lasts – so I’m off in the garden!