Thursday, 30 April 2015

Foraging and Flowers

This weekend we went a-foraging and I began in our garden with the rhubarb which was ready to pick. Here's our little crop of rhubarb sticks on the garden table. Think I'll make some jam with it.

The apple tree is looking at its best now, absolutely dripping in blossom, a froth of pink and white.

The smell is heavenly, sweet and appley, a foretaste of fruit to come.

Aaah - just smell those blooms!

Another scent greeted our noses when we headed for the woods - wild garlic! It's become a ritual for us to go to our favourite place to pick wild garlic - remember last year's visit?

It was just starting to flower. Ideally it should be picked before it flowers but we've never yet managed that. The pretty little stars of white carpet the ground under the trees, and the smell is powerful and very appetising indeed.

When we got home I made lots of wild garlic pesto with pine nuts, grated parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil. I freeze it, as usual, in small quantities for the year ahead. It's nice on pizzas and in risottos and omelettes too. We filled two plastic bags with leaves and from it made two large bowlfuls of pesto. I also put some in jars to give as gifts.

After we'd picked the garlic we drove to one of our favourite places which I visited last May. The Walled Garden at Mells is a beautiful place at any time of the year, and this time our breath was taken away by these wonderful tulips as we stepped through the door in the wall. They were planted in an array of jewel colours and as the sun came out they started to glow. 

I thought they looked wonderful with this backdrop of terracotta pots.

We headed for the outdoor cafe there for a pot of tea in mismatched teacups. Why does tea always taste better when you drink it outdoors? I love the blanket-covered hay bales which make up some of the seating.

There are a couple of sweet little sheds selling flowers and painted furniture, as well as lots of plants for sale. For once I managed to restrain myself and left empty-handed, but we did have a relaxing wander around this stunning place.

The planting is so pretty with drifts of flowers mingling with and merging into each other. These pale narcissi looked wonderful with the blue brunnera. 

I love looking at other gardens at this time of year - large ones, like this, and smaller ones like the front gardens I see when I walk to work every day. It's always inspiring to see how other people combine plants and to discover new plants I've never seen before. So many glorious flowers! Aren't they a treat?

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Gardening, Reading, Baking

Hello! The fine spell that we've been enjoying of late has finally broken, and we had grey skies and light rain yesterday. However I didn't mind at all because the garden was in desperate need of a drink. We've had to water it a few times lately as the soil was very dry indeed. So I seized the opportunity to go shopping at a nearby garden centre to buy some plants for our hanging basket as I've not yet got round to planting any seeds. I only had an hour there, and after a quick whoosh around the polytunnels choosing a small selection of brightly-coloured annuals, I treated myself to a raspberry milkshake. Here it is along with my purchases - a jolly good start to the weekend, I think.

Over the Easter holidays I started reading H is for Hawk which is Helen Macdonald's story of how she trained a goshawk whilst grieving for her father. I found it a poignant and well-written novel and just couldn't put it down. Macdonald describes in great detail her beautiful wild hawk and the art of falconry as well as how she came to terms with her father's death. It was a brilliant read, engrossing and intense.

 I finished it last week and I knew that whatever followed it would need to be quite different. I found the perfect book - The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Atlee. A description of the history of citrus-growing in Italy, it's full of history, horticulture and cookery, and I'm loving it.

Inspired by this lovely book, the lemon and orange groves of Italy were calling me. Instead I lit one of my scented candles - Sicilian Lemon of course! Close your eyes, and you could be there. There's something about citrus smells; they're almost more like perfumes than food smells.

All this reading about lemons, oranges and the like has meant that I felt the urge to bake.

First of all I made some of Sue's Lime and Coconut Muffins and they went down very well indeed with a cup of tea.

 But my citrus-fest didn't stop there. I also made a Grapefruit Cake by replacing the lemon zest and juice in a lemon cake with those of a grapefruit. I adapted a recipe from a lunchbox ideas leaflet that we were given free when my children were at primary school. Here it is:

 Granny's Lemon Cake

200g self-raising flour
2 large eggs
125g butter or margerine
1 lemon
200g caster sugar
1/2 small cup of milk
1 tbsp hot water
pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 2

Rub the butter or margerine into the flour. Add 150g of the caster sugar. Grate in the lemon rind. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, milk and water, then add to the flour mixture. Bake in a 20cm greased cake tin for about 1 hour. Mix together the lemon juice and remaining caster sugar, ready to pour over the cake when it comes out of the oven. Now leave to cool in its tin.

I've made this recipe many times and it always goes down well, and this grapefruit version was a success - several pieces have disappeared already. Time to bake something orangey next, I think ...

Whilst I was at the garden centre I was drawn to these fabulous orange and lemon trees. They were quite expensive so I didn't buy one, but I'm thinking that I might have a go at planting some pips to see if they grow. I've read that it's quite easy to grow them from seed. Have you tried it? I'd be interested to hear how it went, if you did.

Right, time for me to go now as we're heading off to the woods this afternoon ... I'll tell you why next time.

Hope you're having a relaxing weekend, and thank you for dropping by x

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Year and a Day

Hooray! Today I am celebrating the fact that my blog is exactly one year and a day old! 

It sounds a very romantic and significant period of time (and has nothing to do with the fact that my evenings this week have been too busy for blogging, so I couldn't post yesterday). 'A twelvemonth and a day' is a period which turns up in law, folklore and literature: in the medieval poem Gawain and the Green Knight Gawain is given a year and a day in which to return for the second part of the green Knight's challenge; couples made a promise for this period in traditional handfasting or marriage ceremonies; in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales a knight is given a year and a day to complete his quest; Steeleye Span's song All Around My Hat contains the lyrics ' All around my hat I will wear the green willow ... for a twelvemonth and a day'. So I rather like the magic of this length of time, and it seems fitting to celebrate my blogging anniversary now. 

My blog has meant a great deal to me over the last year, enabling me to express my interests in flowers, crochet, poetry, knitting, flowers, sewing, candle-making, cooking, flowers, gardening, home life, cooking, the seasons ... (did I mention flowers?) without boring my family senseless. Instead I've been able to meet lots of lovely like-minded folks who share my interests and have visited some really lovely, inspiring blogs. The excitement which I felt when I received my first few comments has never left me, and I love to hear about what everyone is up to. There's a lovely sharing sense of community in the blogging world which is very uplifting and encouraging.

So I've decided to share with you some flowery goodness to celebrate my Year and a Day anniversary. We've had wonderful warm sunshine and endless blue skies for days now, and as a result everything in the garden is bursting forth in a great rush of colour. You can almost see things growing. Unfortunately the weeds are bursting forth too, but let's not talk about that. Look at these tulips in our front garden - they're like great splashes of colour on a canvas.

And the marsh marigolds in our little pond are just about as bright a yellow as you can get. Where are my sunglasses?

My shed continues to give me great joy, as the flowers around it begin to bloom. The daffodils and tulips which I planted in pots back in November are looking wonderful now.

And growing up the front of my shed is my favourite clematis. I've forgotten its name, but it is my very favourite colour of all, somewhere between sky blue and lavender.

Here's to another twelvemonth and a day!

Monday, 20 April 2015

A Weekend Away

Ahoy there! This weekend we have been away for a little jaunt down to Devon to the coastal city and naval port of Plymouth. Remember last time we went we couldn't see anything because of thick fog? Well this time things were very different and we had non-stop sunshine - it was glorious. Deep blue skies, turquoise sea and verdant green hills meant that conditions were perfect for a spot of photography. It was wonderful to drink in the sea views, smell the salty air and just enjoy the wonderful brightness of it all.

I never tire of walking along the seafront looking across to Drake's Island and Plymouth Sound. Up on the hill to the right is the Royal Citadel, a large military fort.

This little ice cream kiosk overhangs the cliff below in a rather precarious-looking way. You can just see the lido below.


Only a few tiny wispy clouds were visible in the sky.

In the opposite direction the sea shimmered around the seafront's promenades and terraces.

On the Hoe itself is the lighthouse, Smeaton's Tower.

I love its fabulous red and white stripes against the deep blue sky, and its graceful shape.

Heading into the old part of Plymouth known as the Barbican, my eyes were drawn to the painted buildings in the pastel colours so often favoured by coastal towns.

Even heading into the city centre there was a reminder of the sea. I came across some people with little remote controlled sailing boats who were using the ornamental pond as a boating lake.

Back by the sea again, the water was still and glassy, reflecting the yachts moored in the marina.

Some of the little boats had sweet names like the Rachel-Anne.

On the seafront various boat trips advertised excursions to neighbouring islands, rivers and coastal villages. It all looked very appealing.

In the little harbour a beautiful ketch, the Irene, was moored, looking very sleek and graceful.

We wandered past in the evening and marveled at the beautiful polished woodwork.

From across the other side of the harbour the lights of the pubs and bars twinkled and made the scene look quite magical.

 We were only in Plymouth overnight, but it was long enough to feel that we'd had a little holiday. I grew up very near to the sea and although I love living in Somerset, I sometimes long for a bit of a salt breeze and some sea air. Our little visit to Plymouth has definitely put a spring in my step and blown away some cobwebs!


 PS. Thank you, dear readers, for your kind comments on my finished projects in my last post - I know you all know how difficult it can be sometimes to keep going on a long-standing WIP and finish it. I am feeling greatly relieved!