September

Making: (made) an epic tiramisu for seven, all of whom are greedy for dessert. It made lots of portions – enough for seconds for the greedy fans, plus some to take home!

Cooking: A recipe a week from the Green Roasting Tin book, yes, still. I’m enjoying them, apart from this week’s which was a little less than the sum of its parts. Might try it again, but make my own harissa. This weekly project has really revitalised the meatless meals that I make

Sipping: Earl Grey

Reading: The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. Only just started, so this isn’t a recommendation, although it is a very successful best seller. But it’s good so far. I’ve read that if you liked the Crawdads book, this is for you. I did, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it

Waiting: for more rain, I collected lots several weeks ago, to the extent that I began to think I was crazy. But then it stopped raining after a few days and the water is now long gone, used in keeping the plants going

New violas, 6 for £3.50 from a local nursery. So much pleasure for a little cash

Looking: stylish as usual (ha!)

Listening: to the children playing outside, they’re just home from school

Wishing: for a long settled period for us all. Lots of continuing upheaval in the world

Enjoying: autumn

Appreciating: juicy blackberries, pausing to eat a few during walks

Gorgeously red haws (not to eat fresh, though apparently they can be used to make drinks, jams, jellies & syrups)

Eating: fish chowder later tonight, the first this autumn

Liking: cake and coffee with my friend yesterday, after a nice walk for a few hours. We talked and talked and talked

Loving: my aunt’s reaction to a potential menu for a light lunch next week, she said “No, I don’t think so, thank you” to my savoury suggestion. But when I offered to make scones and take over a cream tea she leaned forward, grinned and said: “Now you’re talking!”

Buying: bargains! I’ve got new tops from Seasalt, FatFace and a Craghoppers fleecy thing, which will be good for wearing on cooler autumn walks, all for around half to less than the full ticket price. WHOOP!

Greylag geese

Managing: to get the late payment and interest charges (circa £25!) taken off my credit card bill this morning. I’d uncharacteristically missed the payment deadline by ONE day. I was all ready and prepared to point out that I always pay off in full and have had the account for years, but didn’t have to at all

Watching: Wedding Season on Star, Disney+, so far so good and unexpected

Hoping: to go to London soon, at the beginning of the week I was waiting for the infrastructure from the Queen’s State Funeral to be cleared and things to settle down

Wondering: If you watched it? Jaw-dropping organisation, incredible sights. I loved the Scots Pipers and the Grenadier Guards and the Household Cavelry and …. It was such a spectacle. Along with over 28 million in this country, I was watching. This is the end of an era, so many of us have never known life without the Queen, just being ‘there’

Wearing: ball-gown, tiara, diamond encrusted slippers, naturally

The bees loved the sedum flowers at Buscot Park the other week

Noticing: it’s growing much cooler in the afternoons and evenings. Have you got the heating on, or a fire going yet? The fire has been on once so far, but I’ve wrapped up in my Tilted Squares blanket a few times

Getting: my preserving pan in action. So far I’ve made a batch of Chilli Jam. It’s v v pokey. I used a variety of homegrown tomatoes and hot, hot, hot homegrown birthday chillies

Prairie Fire chillies went into this, it’s definitely not for babies!

Following: what’s on at the V&A and considering Membership again

Heart, or bottom?

Sorting: apple recipes: jelly, chutney or jam?

A return visit to the Cotswold Sculpture Park, before it closes at the end of the month

Anticipating: the new series of Ghosts (BBC 1 tomorrow night, we’ll watch later on the iplayer)

Feeling: keen to see the next of River Cottage Reunited, such a shame there’s only 4 episodes, but wow it’s my kind of telly. Did you see it? Or watching now on catch up on All4?

Cerney House Garden

Hearing: Figure it Out by Royal Blood. Needs to be loud

Chilli Fest!

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What about you? Is all okay in your part of the world? Share three things?

Oh and a warm hello to you if you’ve recently found this blog through Facebook, my Facebook blog page has now reached 4.8K followers!

It is probably autumn, whichever way you look at it

I’ve been trying to eke out and make the most of the last days of summer. Over the weekend we went to a chilli festival. One of us ate a bratwurst and the other a brownie for lunch, while sitting, then lolling full and content on the grass in the warm sun. (Well, calling it grass might be exaggerating rather since most is closer to hay, after the hot summer we’ve had here.) We chilled listening to a mariachi band, who made us laugh and cringe at the same time! I’ve always loved Don’t you Want me Baby? by the Human League, but I’m not sure I ever need to hear a mariachi version again.

The photos above are from another garden visit, on Sunday, to Cerney House Gardens. It’s the time to go while there’s still some colour. As you see, the dahlias and sunflowers are absolutely stunning, vividly coloured and a real shot of brightness amongst what was mostly over and overgrown borders, as you’d expect at this point. The calendars and school terms are now telling us it’s the beginning of autumn. Today it’s pouring and it does feel like it. But that’s the meteorological point of view, the scientists’ neat way of dividing up the year.

In the astrological calendar autumn begins from 23rd September this year. Normally around 21st September the first day of autumn is marked by the equinox – when daylight and dark hours are equal. The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). This year here it’s Friday 23rd. There’s other info about autumn on the Woodland Trust website, here.

I’m so glad that yesterday evening it was dry and warm, so walking trainers on and up to the fields for a 2 1/2 mile loop. Ambling along, we stopped to pick the last few tart juicy red plums which are high up on the little trees, but we turned our noses up at the damsons which looked quite withered, and anyway are always too tart to be enjoyable eaten raw. The blackberries are a mix of mostly sweet and juicy, but it’s a real lottery and sometimes they shock the senses. The brambles must go down deep into the soil. They don’t seem to mind the lack of rain. They’re abundant as usual. I lamented the lack of a tub and suggested chugging down the last of our water on Sunday, thinking we could fill the water bottle with berries to freeze. Apple picking won’t be far off now and I fancy baking an apple and blackberry pie, or crumble.

I’ve just started reading a summer holiday type of book, although I love the change from summer to autumn I still have this feeling that I don’t quite want to let summer drift away. I’m in denial though; right now I’m standing in the conservatory dictating this into my iPhone and I can see the buckets and bowl we put down to catch rainwater are absolutely brimful. It seems a pointless exercise as the flowers and plants have been well watered already, with the terrific thunder and lightning rain storms we’ve had the last couple of nights. And it’s due to rain all week anyway.

We paused what we were watching last night and came in here. The lightning lit up the whole of the dark garden, while I shrieked “Don’t touch the edges of the conservatory, in case we get struck by lightning!” It was really dramatic as the storm raged overhead. Stood in a little metal and glass box, alternately light and dark, it was a little bit scary.

I feel so sorry for the fairs which are coming for their annual visits to the towns and cities around. Torrential rainstorms are going to be terrible for business, but I am glad it’s finally raining. Maybe the grass will be green again.

August

MAKING: salads still. Today’s lunch was delicious! You know when you really enjoy a meal?

Rocket, watercress, cucumber, vine tomatoes, sunblush tomatoes, artichokes and peppered smoked mackerel

COOKING: a new courgette recipe tonight from my latest KDD – 99p!

SIPPING: water

READING: Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves – fourth in the Vera series

WAITING: for my free tickets and food vouchers to a craft fair this weekend. I finally won something. Whoop whoop!

LOOKING: at the large miniature rose bush, I need to go and deadhead it again

A 6 mile circular walk on Sunday

LISTENING: to Craig Charles on BBC 6M

WISHING: for a garden dibber

ENJOYING: researching my family tree

EATING: fresh berries, greengages and nectarines

APPRECIATING: that I can see censuses from well over 100 years ago. Family Tree research has been consuming my thoughts and a fair bit of my time lately as I’ve been given a year’s sub

LIKING: all the colour in the garden still

LOVING: that the things I took on a long weekend away to the seaside recently are pretty much the same as I would’ve taken as a child! Something to make, read, colour/dot-to-dot, in case of rainy days and for quiet moments

BUYING: well, failing to buy some grey mats for the bathroom, currently out of stock. Wins were a Craghoppers top and a linen skirt from the M&S sale last week

MANAGING: to put off transferring my photos from the cloud to my laptop. I must because my phone told me I have 3,000+ on here at the moment

Ripe & juicy early this year

WATCHING: Rev on BBC iplayer. Why have I not watched this before?! It’s funny, touching, sad and thought-provoking. Absolute quality

HOPING: for RAIN. We’re going to have a hosepipe ban soon otherwise. It’s been so dry for so, so long

WEARING: shorts & a tee

Rousham church

NOTICING: The birds are really quiet today and not around

Breakfast (at this rate I’ll need to send you all a pic of today’s dinner*)

FOLLOWING: I thought of a good line for this one in the shower this morning. Can’t remember it….

GETTING: stiff from sitting a bit too much. I’ll move soon and dead-head those roses

BAKING: I made wholemeal pitta bread last week. Pleased with them. Will definitely be making pitta again, such a treat to eat one fresh from the oven for lunch

Nope, you can’t even eat lunch in peace here

COVETING: knowledge – what can I grow radishes in? I bet there are some good ideas online, but it’s nice to ask people, not Google all the time. At work I once grew potatoes in two tires which were stacked up, then you add another when the soil needs topping up. I need some ideas for radishes please

Great name, huge hydrangea flowers

FEELING: relaxed and happy

HEARING: Craig talking about embarrassing listener experiences. Lots of wind in funeral services and inappropriate laughing

*****

Tell us a few things? Maybe 4?

* Don’t panic, I promise I won’t

An autumn walk part 2

A few sips of water, a good look around in all directions. I took a few photos and then we went on for the next part of our walk.

There used to be a couple of fallen tree trunks which were lovely, clean and smooth off to one side of the green crossroads. Lying on the grass. They were removed sometime in the early year. I still miss them. During the first Lockdown last year, when we were only allowed to see people from our households and nobody else, not even social bubbles (the term had yet to be invented, our poor isolated elderly and vulnerable people) we came across a few teenagers there. From their furtive looks at us I guessed they were sneaking out to meet up and socialise, as an illegal part of the allowed daily exercise. I couldn’t really blame them, although it was all such a worrying time and no one really knew what was ahead. Anyway, I miss sitting on those tree trunks. After avoiding the roots, stones and ruts of the lane it was always good to have somewhere to sit and relax for a moment, or five.

Bonus blue skies in October and freshly ploughed fields.
If you go down this way you end up on quite a fast little road, which leads to a picturesque village. You can take another footpath into a meadow, then walk alongside some fast flowing water, go through a few gates, under a railway bridge and ultimately up to a large farm. There’s a public right of way along the road through the middle. There was a bull in a field with cows and calves, which scared the bejesus out of me last spring. You’ve never seen such a flimsy fence and such a mahoosive bull. He kept staring at me!
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, I loudly sang as we walked past.
Just a little peep.
The deer have been munching and trampling the sweetcorn. They’re all around here. We saw hoof prints and ‘other evidence’ of their presence near the maize fields.
At this point my hoodie was firmly off and tied around my waist. Such a lovely warm day.
More fields of maize all around.
There was a massive rainstorm in the middle of the night last Saturday.
Zoomed in.
And as I saw it by eye.

We saw a red kite with a huge wingspan being chased by two or three crows around that tree. It always amazes me how crows can be so aggressive to such a scary looking bird. Confidence or aggression in numbers? They must be highly territorial when in a flock (a ‘murder of crows’ is the collective name after all!)

More crabapples.
My favourite photo of the walk.
I suspected there were tasty, juicy things around this corner of the hedge.
Bingo!
More old man’s beard / clematis too.

Someone had started to walk on and hadn’t come back around the corner with me. So, I called that he should; because there were very big juicy fruits that I couldn’t reach, which could be all his if he wanted.

And we were off again.
He remembered something we had seen back in the summer. But wouldn’t tell me what. It would be a surprise.
Another stretch of footpath which goes along a narrow green lane between field hedgerows. Quite an adventure, this is very narrow. You can easily get caught on brambles and have to avoid nettles and thorns. I usually walk with my elbows and hands up in the air. Quite a sight, especially if I’m also singing.
The sun and shadows are captivating.
Other kinds of traffic have recently been along here too.
Ah yes! Fields and fields of the potatoes. I’d forgotten we’d seen these before, when they were small plants. The ridges of rich iron earth that are heaped up around the plants are so neat and pleasing. I missed a photo opportunity.

For some reason when we come out of that narrow overgrown path and walk along this field edge, we always remember the surprise of passing a teen during Lockdown in summer, last year. She was wearing noise cancelling headphones, had a brightly coloured backpack on and was so confidently tramping along. She’s really stuck in our minds and we’re not quite sure why. I think maybe it was because she was so incongruous. It looked like a route she walked regularly, like she was going to visit a friend or something.

I needed to lean against a big five-bar gate to reorientate, before we turned left for the third part of the walk. I heard a sound and turned around to see a man-child throwing a chunky stick into a tree, followed by the sound of things clunking to the ground…

So spikey sharp. Twin conkers inside.
I stuffed these into my conker pocket and on we went.

The next part of the walk went along a hedge to our left, which has occasional trees interspersed among the bushes. The field on our right gently slopes down to a stand of trees. This is where we watched a young muntjac deer wander earlier in the year. This time there was no peaceful little deer wandering, instead we disturbed about a dozen pheasants in the hedgerow. They took off right in front of us, flying and squawking in alarm. They made me jump. I took up in the air, flying and squawking in alarm too! Someone found this all rather funny.

It can’t be too cold at night yet, otherwise the ferns would be brown and dying. It can’t be far off though, the evenings are much chillier.
I had to limit myself to two fern photographs. I really, really like them.

We crossed a road and plunged into the start of another green lane. This is an ancient byway which used to lead commercial travellers from the Midlands to London. We call the start Freezer Corner because unfortunately sometime ago someone dumped the contents of the freezer under the bushes near the road. They must have pulled up their vehicle and just thrown it all out. Some were probably opened by foxes, others were intact. For quite a while we noted the disintegration of the packaging of once frozen lasagna, fishfingers and a carton of ice cream etc etc. Then it was cleared away. A friend asked if we had reported it all. I’m ashamed to say neither of us even thought of it (though someone else obviously had) partly because it was so fascinating watching the food and packaging disintegrate in the wild. But what an awful thing to do, and why? Why not dump it into a bin? Was it an act of revenge? You’ve hurt me, so I’ll empty your freezer? Weird.

Cranesbill, a type of geranium.
A little sit on a rock. A sip of water and onwards again.
I photographed these thistles when they were glorious purple flowers, back in the summer.
15 to 20 feet up, high altitude ferns.
Many brambles on both sides of this path, but few blackberries. Perhaps they doesn’t get too much sun.
Plenty of sloes.

A little handful of emergency almonds to crunch, hunger was coming on with a vengeance now, it was way past lunchtime. There’s a few miles to go.

We’ve turned left again. We’re heading to very familiar fields with landmarks: the cherry trees, sloe alley, blackberry corner and plum row.
What a neat front door.
Higher up now than at other points of the walk.

We paused at the top of the field and heard very, very loud unselfconscious singing coming from some distance away in the shady lane. As it’s stubble now we preferred to walk out in the open field, to keep feeling the sun and wind on our faces. The singing was hilarious. She obviously had headphones on and was belting out JoJo’s Leave (Get out). I glimpsed her; a grey haired lady walking a lurcher, definitely getting something out of her system. Good for her!

This one is tiny. Do mice make burrows?!

In the last part of our walk, in a field not far from home we looked for the dead adder that we came across last week. It’s gone. I’ll pop the pic I took into my Taking Stock post at the end of the month, if I remember. That was quite a sight. That and seeing a headless pigeon made for a memorable walk.

Home and a late-late lunch of cheese & biscuits, apple & grapes. What a great walk, so fab to go out-out again.

I hope we can do it again very soon.

Taking Stock – August

Making: mini hexies. Make one, join as you go. It’s a perfect little project for oddments of yarn

Cooking: Leek, Salmon & Spinach crustless quiche

Will use smoked trout or hot smoked salmon & cheddar for even more flavour next time. Asparagus & peas, instead of leek and spinach? Once you’ve got the right sized dish and basic quantity of eggs etc sussed you can make any variation. Muffin sized too, for a lunchbox friendly version. (Ask if you want the recipe)

Sipping: a pink grapefruit margarita, last night. Inspo from Nigella’s At my Table book

Reading: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s SO GOOD. Baby Theo sent me this as a thank you for his Patchwork Blanket (and a bottle of Brecon gin. That baby has v good taste!)

Waiting: for my next Craft Gin Club Box. You can get a half price box, it’s such a good offer (but UK only, I’m afraid) plus I’ll get reward points. It can be a one-off, there’s no need to continue the subscription. That’s what I thought I’d do, but they’re so good I carried on. See my blog Facebook page for a few pics of some boxes I’ve received and the referral code

I need to buy more bottle lights. The middle two were my first from the CGC, the others we bought elsewhere

Looking: more and more like autumn is imminent

Listening: to a dove coo

Wishing: for a crushed ice maker

Enjoying: looking back at my summer photos

Cawsand Bay, Cornwall

Appreciating: having my next reads lined up. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart ebooks are now available for me, on the library Libby app

A very good August read

Eating: nothing yet after sourdough pizza last night

Liking: the thought of wearing my woollies again. Scarves and gloves on chilly walks – oh yes!

Loving: Call My Agent, series 2, on Netflix. Never a dull ep

Buying: local eggs

Buckland Abbey, NT

Managing: dandelions, sort of. You’ve got them all, then at super speed HELLO we’re back!

Watching: combining and bailing in the fields. Looking forward to seeing freshly ploughed fields next

See the cloud of dust?

Hoping: to go to London soon, it’s been too long but … y’know…

Wearing: socks again. I asked if anyone had put on socks & woollies yesterday afternoon. Lots of friends said they had too. A few had even put the heating on too. Brrrr! It wasn’t a warm Bank Holiday Monday at all. 15° and overcast all day. Optimistically I’d worn shorts and a tee until 3pm, when I’d turned a pale shade of blue

Noticing: ripe blackberries in hedges now (eating them too)

Following: dancers and ice skaters on Insta

Sorting: makes. Concentrating on crocheting my GS Coast Blanket, the hexies and my chunky Paintbox yarn Star Blanket

Getting: groceries delivered soon, must move

Coveting: a luxury glamping weekend with a friend

Feeling: that it’s time for more jasmine tea

Hearing: talk about SharePoint

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Can you believe it’s going to be September tomorrow, already?!

Reasons to be Cheerful

My wool delivery came! And it didn’t take that long either, despite many warnings that there are delays. Thanks Wool Warehouse.

I ordered lots of balls and in a few different colour-ways, so I can power on with my Coast blanket. I managed 57 minutes of crochet while on a call earlier. That’s impressive work for my dodgy hand.

Slowly, slowly I’m knitting my next dishcloth*. Choosing the design for February must have been a breeze. I really like it. I always enjoy lace knitting, though I have to concentrate.

I had a proper lightbulb moment the other day as I kept worrying that I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t looking heart-like at all. Thank goodness I didn’t undo and go back to the beginning! I probably missed a pattern note where it says the hearts appear upside down. I made someone jump by suddenly shouting “OMG, there ARE hearts after all!”

It turns out I’m not the only one who worried about this one. Always a relief.

*It’s part of a free 12 month KAL, go back to my last post for the link and description.

Winter flowers and the promise of Spring flowers. The garden is coming to life. Just look at those cheeky little croci coming up in the gap between the last two steps. We missed these last year, as we moved after they’d flowered. After the snow had gone it was a nice surprise to find a carpet of lilac all over the garden.

Look at these tulips; despite my not having cleared away some of the leaves of the grape leaf anemone, they’re coming up anyway. Top marks for doing what they’re meant to do. I felt so guilty I stopped snapping photos and did a bit of tidying to help them along.

Chicken soup in the making (much therapeutic chopping while listening to favourite artists on Spotify.) Apparently I said we were having chicken soup for dinner on Wednesday, three times on Tuesday. I don’t dispute that. My memory is fine. I was just excited! It feels so healthy and tastes great too. I added garlic, mixed herbs, homegrown dried bay leaves, red pepper, leeks, Merchant Gourmet ready cooked puy lentils, sweetcorn, chicken stock, leftover Sunday roast chicken and a spoonful of leftover double cream, a good grind of fresh black pepper and pinch of salt. So good. Sooo good.

Refreshing walks relieve head pressure and get the body moving. I score myself out of 10 some days and never failed to return feeling an 8/10.

I know many don’t have such beautiful places and views nearby. I’m really sorry if that’s you. I’m appreciative and grateful, I don’t take it for granted.

We had the Beast from the East again last week. Temperatures went down to -5° some nights and didn’t get above 0° on the whole during the day.

We walked Saturday afternoon, it was -1°. That wasn’t the coldest walk we’ve had, but might have been one of the swiftest 4.5 miles because of the bitingly cold wind.

I found a few big chunks of ice in different places on verges, where there were no puddles at all. My shoe was for scale. Aren’t they thick? I reckon they may have come off a farm vehicle as it went along the track.

Homemade cinnamon buns with a toffee sauce and clementine glaze. Nuff said!

~~~

I’m going to admit that I started this blog post with rather gritted teeth. I feel like I’ve finally hit the wall this week. We’ve been in lockdown to varying degrees coming up for a year now. It’s worn thinner than thin.

Getting out into the garden to photograph the flowers earlier was a good decision. I also had a nagging feeling that if I didn’t blog today, I might well not blog again. It’s been proactive to list reasons to be cheerful. It’s a bit like smiling when you don’t feel like smiling, but by the end of the fake smiling, you are genuinely smiling…

~~~

I really appreciate it when you read and comment here or contact me privately elsewhere. Tell me a few things. How are you feeling? What are your reasons to be cheerful right now? Have you made anything as sinful as my cinnamon buns? (Ha that’s a hard challenge to beat!)

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?

Basildon Park

  

These photos are from a visit to Basildon Park a National Trust property in Berkshire, which we visited on Sunday. I’m glad we went before the storms of this week, as I reckon the petals of the rose garden might now have been blown away!

The interesting thing about this is that Lady Iliffe didn’t die until 2007 and so there is a video of her speaking about how she and her husband came to buy the property after the War. It’s not very often that you have the opportunity to see and hear the last inhabitants of an NT house, for obvious reasons. They had seen it before, in the late thirties, and hadn’t forgotten it. One day they passed nearby, wondering what became of the place, and ended up joining Men from the Ministry of Works on an impromptu tour. It had sat empty for fifty years, apart from being requisitioned during both the First and Second World Wars. As you see it’s a solidly impressive building. It must have taken a big pot of money to renovate and restore; but as Lord Iliffe was a newspaper magnate, photographed with Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook amongst others, that probably was not a huge issue….

 I loved the view from the gardens at the back. The Berkshire (pronounced “bark-sher”) countryside rolls beautifully on. We had a good walk in the woodland and looked around the house. It was good to revisit as I had memories of some horrible 1950s decor in the house in the early noughties (I think): a plastic bed-surround with a white plastic teasmaid and polyester bedspread. The lovely gallery guide told me the house was now much improved and we’d find it very altered. I was much younger (practically a child) that first visit and expected faded grandeur, not a pink telephone by the bed! 

When I win my pot of Lottery money I shall buy a Lifetime Membership of The National Trust. It’s always a great day out, with chances for a good walk too. (This reminds of a film we had a recommendation to watch: Golden Age, it’s fun and has a fantastic British cast.)

Buttercups & Bunting

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Sunshine, blue clouds and lush green fields of buttercups, fringed with cow parsley. Rural England is beautiful in the Spring.

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This was a very steep walk back up the hill from the river but taking a few photos always gives the perfect excuse for a quick rest.

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Home to eat some delicious local produce from the farm shop and continue with the Yarndale bunting. As you see it’s really fast to crochet. I forgot to ask if any of you are planning to go? I’m thinking of going on the Sunday.