Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Bright Sunshiny Days

Oh, I'm so easily pleased. Sunshine and balmy hot days make me very, very happy indeed. Hasn't it been glorious? From waking up in the morning with a room flooded with sunlight to long days spent outdoors, ending with evenings relaxing in the garden. 
Naturally, we have been making the most of every moment as, of course, this beautiful weather is likely to change any day now.
We've been at the beach, enjoyed a picnic, explored the rock pools and idled the day away. Having heard how busy some beaches were at the weekend I was pleasantly surprised by just how quiet it was.
We ventured slightly further afield and enjoyed a walk somewhere we would never have thought to visit before, through the fields, along country lanes and old canal towpaths. Beautiful scenery.
Mostly, however, we have been spending time in the garden. We've had the paddling pool out which, incidentally, is THE best way of keeping cool in this weather, especially as most of the water gets splashed over anyone within close range. Any left over by the evening is used to water the plants.
Our tent has been checked over, aired and tent pegs replaced in hopeful anticipation of enjoying the occasional camping trip during the summer break.
Sitting in the garden has also enabled me to pick up my crochet hook again. I'm not creating anything exciting, just a cushion cover, but it's a lovely way to unwind.
To avoid too much time cooking and having the oven unnecessarily warming the house, I've been keeping meals simple. We've eaten pasta, quick paella and this evening we'll be eating mushroom and spinach omelette with salad. I do love how this weather lends itself to eating healthily without any real effort. I'm drinking lots of water too. I'm hoping my body will thank me for it.
I have so many things I need to be getting on with - hedge cutting, painting the front door and sweeping the drive to name but a few, but they will have to wait. I'm enjoying this weather while it lasts. After all this could be the only Summer we get!
J. X

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Elderflower Cordial

I'm not sure where the lovely Summer weather has disappeared to this week but I would really, really, very much like it back please. It has turned grey and cool here once again, so I am very happy that I was able to make this year's elderflower cordial while the sun was shining.
It was a beautiful sunny day when we walked through the fields gathering the elderflowers from the hedgerows.  We, of course, being me and Lily - my partner in crime. I love that she enjoys being outdoors and is more than happy to walk by my side and listen as I ramble on with my very limited plant knowledge.  
The gorgeous elderflowers are in abundance at the moment and are so easy to spot with their frothy, creamy-white flower heads. To make cordial they are best freshly picked on a dry day and when the buds have just opened.
Just as I thought, it didn't take long to collect the twenty five flower heads we needed but we continued on our walk regardless, embracing the warm weather, blue skies and fields filled with Buttercups.
On our return home I rinsed the elderflowers to remove any little insects and set about making the cordial. This recipe is my favourite and makes about 1½ litres of cordial. It is so simple to make and once diluted makes for a refreshing drink with, I think, just the perfect balance of citrus and floral flavours.
You will need :
1.2 kg granulated sugar
1 unwaxed lemon (zest and slice)
25 freshly picked elderflower heads
40g citric acid
Put the sugar and 750mls water into a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then immediately remove from the heat.
Add the citric acid, sliced lemon, zest and elderflower heads and give it a good stir. Leave to infuse for 24hrs.
Line a colander or large sieve with muslin, strain the mixture through, discarding the bits and decant into a sterilised bottle.
It is very concentrated so you don't need much. I find it is most delicious mixed with sparkling spring water but it has been recommended I try it with Prosecco so I will definitely be trying that- thank you Selma.
It is a delightful taste of Summer in a glass. A little bit of bottled sunshine.
J. X

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Easedale Tarn

Last week we were on a break from pre-school and  I was more than ready for this respite from the usual hurrying around in a morning. We were a little indulgent in our laziness and unashamedly Lily even spent a whole day in her pyjamas.
On Wednesday, however, we were up and out of the house early once again. It was a beautiful blue sky day (don't you just love it when those kind of days coincide with being off work?), perfect for a much longed for return visit to Easedale Tarn.
Easedale Tarn lies West of the small village of Grasmere and at the end of a very scenic yet gentle climb alongside it's outflow, Sourmilk Gill.
We set off from Grasmere just after 9am and I was so glad we did as it was still lovely and quiet. It was a sunny and bright morning with stunning clear views, not too hot for walking. Lily led the way and at times it was an effort to keep up! Except, of course, when there was the obligatory stop for flapjack.
Our walk was also a good excuse for trying out my new walking boots. Unexpectedly, my last boots had given up on me the previous week. I'd had them for over six years, although I was hoping they would last longer. Goodness knows how many miles they must have covered in that time. The trouble was they had been incredibly comfortable, so naturally I was a bit concerned about wearing in some new ones. There was no need, however. They are just fine and surprisingly much lighter on my feet, which makes keeping up with Lily that little bit easier.
Following a picnic beside the Tarn and taking in the views we set about our return to the village via Far Easedale Gill. The way back was rather boggy in places but was easily avoided by walking on the stones, so no need for wet feet.  (Lily take note!)
The stony track then led us back alongside Helm Crag towards Grasmere where I was rewarded with a nice cup of coffee and a sit down in the Wordsworth Memorial Garden. A really enjoyable day out.
J. X

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Garden Progress

Since this post about the garden at the beginning of April there have been a few small changes.
Until recently I have always thought of gardening as a bit of  chore. The intention was to move house anyway, so as long as the grass was trimmed, weeds kept under control and it looked OK with minimum effort it was fine by me.
All well and good but lately I have been bitten by the bug. This gardening malarkey that people get excited about. Maybe it's because we are staying put in this house for now, I'm getting older, the weather is more favourable to being outside, I don't know, but I'm actually enjoying it! Getting my hands dirty and being able to grow things is very satisfying and a wonderful way to unwind.
I have given the planters, shed and garden furniture a coat (or two) of paint - Wild Thyme was my colour of choice - and it's made such a difference. They look almost new again and it's given a new lease of life to what was otherwise looking faded and tired.
The vegetables in the small raised bed are coming on a treat and I have used lots of the spinach in my cooking already.
The stony flower bed has been planted with Mint, Thyme, Rosemary and Lavendula. At the back there is a Clematis and Lily's sunflower for her pre-school growing competition.
To add a splash of colour I filled the large planter with Pansies. I've used the smaller planter in front of the shed for our strawberries, which have since been moved to an area which gets the sun for longer.
The pot on the table contains our tiny oak sapling. We have grown it from one of the acorns we collected on our walks last Autumn. It is growing quickly so it wont be long before I put it in a larger container.
The grass is now home to Lily's swing and on sunny days the large paddling pool.
It is only a small garden and is therefore, thankfully, quite low maintenance (I am aware my new found enthusiasm is likely to wane once the weather turns). It's not a lot but it is ours and now we have a pleasant and relaxing place to spend our time.
J. X

Saturday, 27 May 2017

To The Sea

This week we spent a lovely afternoon in the garden enjoying the sunshine and making the most of the new garden swing and paddling pool. Simple pleasures and a blissfully happy time enjoying each other's company. It was such a treat to cool off in the paddling pool but it's not quite the same as being at the sea, therefore, a decision was made and  bucket and spade packed in preparation for the following day.
Friday morning arrived and it was a beautiful warm and sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. 
Being a weekday the beach was fairly quiet. A few people were out flying kites, walking their dogs or just enjoying being at the seaside, making sandcastles, paddling in the sea and collecting shells.
The light cool breeze from the sea was a welcome relief from the heat but required a reminder to myself to top up with sun cream as it belied the strength of the sun.
I love being at the beach. It has a calming and restorative effect on me which has been much needed this week. The salty air, waves gently lapping the shore and the feeling of sand between my toes immediately transported me back to holidays and carefree childhood days. Not much can beat walking barefoot on the sand, that moment when you first dip your toes in the water, then relaxing on a blanket gazing out to sea in quiet contemplation, although I was heard to comment that an ice cold glass of Pinot Grigio wouldn't have gone amiss! 
The beach is also a place where Lily is wonderfully relaxed. Running in and out of the waves, scrambling on the rocks and playing in the sand, and I can take it easy knowing she is quite safe.
At high tide we took a short break from the beach to enjoy our picnic lunch, following a path which led us up above the shore to a wide grassy area on the cliff top with beautiful views of the horizon, returning only after treating ourselves to ice cream - chocolate, with chocolate sauce and sprinkles for me.
The afternoon was spent in much the same way as the morning. We were enjoying ourselves so much I was surprised at just how quickly the time had passed before we reluctantly made our way home again.
In Lily's words it was 'a cracking day!'
J. X

Monday, 22 May 2017


Last week we celebrated Lily turning four years old. I can't begin to think how quickly this last year has gone by. She has changed and grown so much in this time and as each day that passed has seen her face new challenges, I am so incredibly proud of what she has managed to achieve.
Cards and gifts were opened in the morning, her favourites being a garden swing, books and some fabulous rainbow wellies. We just managed to put up the swing on the Saturday evening before it went dark, ready for her to discover the following morning. Her little face lit up when she saw it.  It was such a joy to see. I can see many happy hours spent on it this summer.
I made two cakes for the special day. One to take to share at pre-school that morning and one to enjoy at home. They were both deliciously chocolatey and covered in icing and other goodies.
Lily enjoyed a delightfully happy day and I can't wait to discover what adventures the coming year has in store for her.
J. X

Friday, 12 May 2017

Happy Friday

It has been a busy week, full of this and that. Nothing dramatic,  just ordinary everyday happenings, but things which have made me very happy indeed.
The weather has been glorious here. Starting out cold and fresh, becoming sunny and warm as the days moved on, then culminating with the most beautiful evening sunsets.
It has been lovely being able to hang out the washing every day and has felt so good to breathe in the fabulous scent of fresh air on our clothes and bed linen. There is something so very satisfying to me about seeing a line of clothes drying in the warm breeze.
The dry weather has also enabled me to spend much of my time in the garden getting jobs done and prettying things but more about all that another time.
Of course, we have been out walking. Considering the weather has been very dry, the fields are looking lush and green.
Always time to stop for a snack.
The wild garlic with its heady aroma is now out in full flower here.

Importantly for me, I have been feeling more like myself again. A run on Wednesday morning put paid to any doubts I had about my fitness. I  am aware I am very much a work in progress and although it was still an effort  I managed my run with no issues. Onwards and upwards.
Yesterday was quite exciting in that our seed planting  paid off and provided us with some  baby spinach leaves to eat alongside last night's pizza. Yay! Delicious leafy greenery, fresh from our very own garden. Fresh spinach is something we love to eat so we will hopefully get plenty more over the summer months.
The weekend is almost upon us and we have a birthday to celebrate. So very much to be thankful for.
J. X