Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A Celebration and Things Autumnal

I can't believe that this is the last day of September, a month which I love. Where has it gone? It feels as if it has slipped quietly away in the twinkling of an eye. I'm still feeling a bit under the weather after my cold, but the weather itself is wonderful. Since the weekend we've had misty mornings, blue skies, warm, golden days and chilly nights - perfect autumn weather. Last week we had a wonderful day at B's graduation ceremony. It was a very special day indeed, one which I will always remember. The university put on a fantastic ceremony - simultaneously formally academic and full of fun too. The celebrations took place in huge marquees and the surroundings were fantastic - champagne and canapes combined with glorious sea views. B was so happy and I was a very proud mum.

Once we were home again, it was time to cook the wonderful quinces which my colleague had given me.

I peeled, cored and chopped them.

Then put them into a preserving pan.

I then cooked them in water until they were soft, mashed them with a potato masher and strained them through a jelly straining bag.

I put the strained liquid back in the pan with equal amounts of sugar and boiled it for about 15 minutes till it was set.

I potted up the jelly ...

... and when it was cool admired its rose-gold colour.

Here it is with the late-afternoon sun behind it - I just love the amber colour. It's delicious on scones and brioche rolls, an appley flavour tinged with pineapple or rose, quite subtle and fragrant.

Outside, the garden is still producing blackberries and raspberries, although the rate is slowing now.

I picked the last of the apples this week and gathered the windfalls (I love that word!).

Our tree has never produced so many apples, and I think the poor thing needs a rest. In Keats' words it truly is 'bent with apples'.

I cored some and filled them with mincemeat, then baked them for an hour in a hot oven.

Here they are once cooked. I served them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but they were eaten so fast I didn't have time to photograph them looking artistic in a bowl!

Finally there have been some wonderfully colourful sunsets ...

... and sunrises over the last few days.

Just beautiful!

Thank you for all your lovely comments - I so love to read them, and appreciate the time you take to leave them. See you soon x

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Autumn Equinox

Hello there! Despite my intention to catch up properly with blogging, the opportunity continues to elude me. I'm feeling decidedly under the weather, having caught a cold from one of the many sniffly teenagers at work, and yesterday had a cracked filling repaired at the dentist - ouch. It's not been the best of weeks so far. I feel sure it will improve. Anyway, enough of my moaning, and on to the subject in hand which is that today is the autumn equinox. This day is so-called because day and night are of equal length and it's the first day of autumn - yay! When I was about 12 I remember making my parents a 'Happy Autumn Equinox!' card decorated with carefully felt-tipped pictures of autumn leaves, squirrels, acorns, conkers and toadstools. I don't know why it never caught on!
Things are feeling more autumnal now. Dawn has been arriving later these days, and I have seen a few lovely sunrises. This was couple of days ago.

The conker tree opposite our house is yet to give up its bounty, despite the longing glances of school children on their way to and from school. Soon, I think.
One of my colleagues at work has a quince tree in her garden and has kindly given me these gorgeous quinces. The honeyed smell is wafting around the kitchen this evening.

 Clover has found some very warm spots of late-afternoon sunshine this week. Basking is definitely the word.

In their pot outside the back door the calendulas are resplendent in their orangeness (not sure if that's a word). They're perfect at this time of year.

Hope you've had a 'Happy Autumn Equinox!' today x

Friday, 18 September 2015


Hello all! My visits to blogland are few and far between at the moment as life has become quite hectic here at The House with The Blue Door. D and I have finished the third week of term at school, J has gone back to university for his second year and B is working hard in her new job. Slowly things are settling into a new routine, and I am trying to remember to breathe, drop my shoulders and be in the moment. It's easy to forget to be mindful when life gets busy. This month our weekends are very busy too (in a good way), and the last one was no exception. P drove J back to university, and less than an hour later our two sweet little nephews aged 8 and 6 arrived for a sleepover with us. It was a lively weekend!
We decided to take them out the next afternoon to a favourite National Trust location, Stourhead. We went here back in April on a soggy Good Friday, and have been many times over the years. On Sunday it was warm, but overcast, so we took our raincoats and headed out. We've only been round the house once. It was impressive, but it's the 17th century landscaped gardens we love the most.

The drive is always beautiful,with its sweeping avenue of trees.

The kitchen garden is my favourite part of the gardens, always beautifully tended.

Here's the pelargonium house - it smelled lovely.

Kiwi fruit was ripening outside.

And the flower beds were full of early autumn colour.

The old buildings were so appealing, clothed in climbing roses.

And this second-hand bookshop is always worth a visit.

Already the leaves are beginning to change colour.

There are some magnificent trees at Stourhead - I love to stand underneath and look up at them.

My favourites there are the sweet chestnuts, full of gnarled, twisted personality.

Sweet chestnut bark is wonderfully furrowed and looks as if it flows along the tree.

Their long flat leaves have serrated edges which the sunlight filters through. 

The chestnuts are coming along nicely. We always have some roasted at Christmas and are delicious.

Signs of autumn are everywhere. Mushrooms (or toadstools?) are sprouting up in the grass.

And acorns are swelling nicely on the oak branches.

Leafless colchiums were popping up in little clumps, a gorgeous shade of lilac.

Through the trees the view across the gardens is stunning in its classical proportions.

Down at lake level we climbed down some mossy stone steps to the grotto, a man-made cave which looks out onto the water.

The god of the river looked on approvingly from his stone den.

Further along the path we came to my favourite of the buildings which surround the lake, the Gothic cottage. It looks like something from 'Harry Potter'!

Inside it's always decorated with foliage and in the winter a fire is lit.

The view through the windows is gorgeous.

Even the front door is set into a Gothic arch.

Further on a much grander building, the Pantheon.

Some of the trees are well into their autumn colours.

These purple berries shone in a short rain shower.

And these rhododendron roots caught my eye - rather sinister, aren't they?

Fabulous views are around every corner.

Our nephews enjoyed climbing and exploring the artfully-built 'ruin'.

These hydrangeas framed the lake perfectly.

And the Temple of Apollo stood imposingly on a hill above us.

Suddenly the sun came out and lit up the Palladian bridge. The grass glowed in the sunshine, and it seemed as if the world had been thrown into 'glorious technicolour'.

As we walked back up the hill to the cafe for cakes and ice creams, we passed these pretty cottages. I think they're NT holiday cottages and I'm always very fond of them. I like their little porches and mellow stonework.

It was a great afternoon out, and our two nephews were good company. We all slept like logs that night (especially me!). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can do some blog-visiting this weekend, as I've been missing finding out what you're all up to, and maybe even squeeze some creativity in. In the meantime I hope you have a lovely weekend.
See you soon x