2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work

Leave a comment

Blossom time



This is proving to be a seriously good spring for all types of flowers – tulips are coming out all over the garden, the forget-me-nots are just getting into their stride and I don’t think I ever remember seeing so many flowers on the magnolia and camellia.


IMG_2671To give you an idea of scale, I can just about stretch to reach the top of the magnolia, and the camellia outgrew me a few years back. We planted both of them the year we moved into this house over 20 years ago and they’ve brightened every spring since.

IMG_2672Today had been grey with low cloud until about 5pm when the sky cleared and there was the most amazing low angled sun lighting up all the flowers.

IMG_2677I’d been reading the Portraits of Wildflowers blog earlier today about the amazing wild flower meadows in Texas at this time of year and thinking how marvellous it must be to see that. But honestly, the forget-me-nots, celandines and all the other parts of an English spring aren’t half bad either.



Leave a comment

Perfect garden afternoon

IMG_2648The warm weather this weekend seems to have resulted in lots of wildlife getting out and about. I saw three different types of butterfly this afternoon: the Peacock above and the Tortoiseshell below. I also had a Comma land on the table, but couldn’t get to my camera without frightening it off! I’m sure these must all be ones that have been hibernating through the winter.

IMG_2646The birds are also thoroughly enjoying the warmer weather – the bowl we have for Tilly to drink from in the garden makes a perfect sized bath for two or three sparrows, or a solitary starling or blackbird – this one today was having a really good splash!

IMG_2645So, so nice to sit in the garden with my flip flops on (with my feet hideously whitened after many months of thick socks!), read (currently revisiting Enchanted April, which I wrote about last year, and is one of the best books about finding joy by following your heart), journal, bask in the sun and listen to the bird song. Not warm enough to be out of long sleeves yet, but pretty good all the same.

IMG_2650I always want to grab hold of spring this time of year and make it stay longer – things seem to flower and change so quickly, and after a long winter you feel like you want the magnolia and quince blossom to last just as long as the cold weather did.





Wednesday in white

IMG_2624The whites in the garden have been dazzling today, although when you start to look more closely it’s clear that quite often there’s a tint of another colour in there too – this Chaenomeles or Japanese Quince is a variety called ‘Apple Blossom’ and you can see why when you look at some of the other flowers:


IMG_2623The exact balance of pink to white on each flower is different, giving a lovely overall effect. The magnolia is similar, with a faint blush at its base:

IMG_2619Totally different effect with the daffodils though – this is definitely a creamy yellow:

IMG_2628There are two icy whites in the garden though – the Osmanthus delavayi (I don’t know its common name, sorry!) which is just smothered in pure white honey scented flowers that some early bees were enjoying:


IMG_2637And the honesty seed pods that have lasted right the way through the winter.

IMG_2629Loving this spring light and freshness!



Reflections on the past year – and spring flowers


Wow, I’ve been so busy with work that I actually missed my blogiversary on the 19th – can’t believe I’ve been doing this a whole year! Thanks to everyone who’s liked my posts over that time, as well as the hardy souls who follow my blog 🙂


What’s changed since I started the blog?

  1. I’ve learned that I can make a success of running my own business – just coming up to the anniversary of going full time on that, and all is well
  2. I’ve also learned that knowing when to take breaks and rest your mind is absolutely vital to being able to continue to do that
  3. I can actually work our digital camera for the first time in ten years
  4. I’ve got a lot more into gardening and nature as a result of paying more attention to what’s happening in the world around me
  5. IMG_2594I’ve become more relaxed about posting – I blog when I feel like it rather than trying to impose a schedule. As an awful lot of my life is deadline focussed, it’s quite nice to have something creative that isn’t.
  6. I’m following about 100 more blogs than last year at this time – it’s a real highlight of my day catching up with what everyone’s writing about
  7. I’ve posted comments on other people’s blogs for the first time – I’d never done it before this year, but it’s really nice connecting with people half a world away
  8. My knowledge of geography of the USA has got a lot better – I like to see where other bloggers live and as so many of them are ‘across the pond’ I’m finally starting to get a grip on some of the states


Its also fun to look back on last year and realise that spring has hit a lot earlier than last year at this time – although the sunshine through my patio door today is deceptive, we’ve just come back from a walk and the north wind is absolutely bitter. We could just see snow on the hills in the Lake District in the distance, so even though we’re past the equinox there’s a whole lot of warming still to happen. But the colour and light in the garden today tells me it won’t be long…


I’m looking forward to another year of blogging and seeing what it teaches me – not to mention what I’ll learn from everyone else 🙂



First frost

Fabulously frosty this morning first thing, so ended up running round the back garden in my dressing gown trying to capture it before the sun melted it all.



You could actually hear and see the leaves falling – like autumn fast forwarded – on the magnolia. It only started to turn colour a few days ago, but the leaves were just tumbling off it this morning. I love how as the leaves fall you can already see the furry white buds that’ll be bringing the flowers next spring.


And indeed, by ten o’clock, it was all gone. End of November is quite late really for the first frost to hit, but I do love the way it makes you want to get all snuggled up inside and make comforting meals like casseroles. So of course, I went for a run in the freezing air, but that too was quite special: beautiful visibility to the distant hills with mist hanging in the valleys.

Leave a comment

Recipe for a perfect afternoon

Turned into a beautiful afternoon, so we decided to go for a walk down to the nature reserve and then along the embankment that skirts it through to one of the local parks and back home – about 4 miles. The wind from the sea was still bitterly cold, but as soon as we turned onto the embankment it instantly felt warmer. Butterflies were everywhere, the air was full of the sound of skylarks and it was so clear we could see the hills about 30 miles away.

The park is a Victorian one, but it’s had a few revamps in recent years courtesy of Lottery funding, some of which paid for this fountain.


Apparently it’s a copy of the original one there, but that must have gone a long time ago as I’ve lived here all my life and don’t remember it. There’s a lake beyond it with huge sprinkling fountains – all in all a rather nice place to be on a sunny Saturday. As the park’s such an old one, it has some fantastic trees and plants. The maples were just coming into flower…


Some huge magnolias looked beautiful against the sky…


…and had carpets of wood anemones underneath.


Back home we had a cafetiere of freshly ground coffee while we sat in the garden, then did a bit of light weeding until it was time for tea. And tonight it was one of our favourite meals which always heralds the start of summer for us – jewelled couscous. We both love this, but it’s best with fresh mint and chives from the garden so it’s a no-no in the winter months: but then it really is the sort of meal you want to eat outside, in the sun, with a glass of chilled white wine close by. With no cooking apart from toasting the almonds (5 mins dry fry in a non-stick pan) and pouring boiling water on the couscous (5 mins), it’s just a question of chopping the herbs, feta, black olives, red pepper, adding some pomegrante seeds and sultanas and then mixing everything together with some olive oil and lemon juice.


I love ingredients that look pretty!


And the finished result!

IMG_1227Admittedly it then takes you half an hour to clean all the spatters of pomegranate juice off your face, glasses, kitchen cupboards and everywhere else – let me tell you now that I have never yet managed to free the seeds by tapping with a wooden spoon, nor have I met anyone who has. I think this recipe came originally from Jo Pratt’s ‘In the Mood for Food’ – great book.

Walk, gardening, coffee, great meal – and there’s a cake in the oven too. Happy weekend everyone!

Leave a comment

Counting blessings

Well, this week has been a good one for life lessons. I came home on Thursday to find my other half in hospital, having fallen off the ladders while trying to fix some tiles on our roof. Thankfully he ‘just’ has a badly broken wrist, 2 dislocated fingers, a sprained ankle and a banged head, but it could have been so much worse. The last couple of days have been filled with us trying to adjust our normal routine – just getting dressed is full of new challenges as he can’t use his left hand at all. I have also discovered that I am the world’s worst nurse – I just seem to have no idea of how to do practical things for other people (perhaps because we don’t have kids and I was the youngest in my family), and we were both in hysterics at my pathetic attempts to help him get dry after a bath.

By yesterday afternoon though we’d both settled down a bit. He’d gone to meet some friends in town, and I’d collapsed with a book in the garden. The sun was hot enough to be in a t-shirt and everything around was really starting to blossom. This is the magnolia that just last week was bursting its buds:


It’s even more amazing close up:



And I sat there in these lovely surroundings and thought how incredibly lucky we were that we were both able to do those things on such a glorious day, and that we weren’t instead trying to confront all the much more serious ways that things could have turned out. And realising that this has been, despite it all, a blessing, will hopefully make it easier to adjust until he gets the use of his arm back.


And by the time the green shoots of the day lilies at the back of this photo start to show their yellow flowers, things will hopefully be back to normal.