Sunday 26 June 2011

Midsummer : Celebrations

Hurrah - the summer came back at last, just in time for a very special family get togethers today. 50 years ago my lovely aunt and uncle started out on their married life together, just a few days after my aunt's 20th birthday so this week is extra special for them. To celebrate they threw the most smashing of afternoon parties at this beautiful country house.
We spent a glorious afternoon catching up with family, (many of whom we haven't seen in far too long), enjoyed a delicious lunch and generally basked in a perfect June day.
Here are the origianl wedding party from 50 years ago. My mum is on the left, then my uncle, my auntie (mum's sister) my uncle's sister and her two daughters. The girls and my mum were bridesmaids back in 1961 and the groom's sister made all their pretty dresses after just three sewing lessons apparently.
It really was a lovely place to while away the afternoon, catch up and share memories.
Happy Golden Wedding to a lovely couple and thanks for sharing such a special day. Xxx

P.S And a special hello to all the family I discovered today are readers of my little blog! Hello Aunty Pam & Uncle Graham, hope we see you again before too long. xxxx

Saturday 25 June 2011

Midsummer : Friends for Dinner

In lieu of summer weather (raining again today, can't believe there's play at Wimbledon) we decided to eat the season instead and enjoy the flavour of summer with some good friends. We got know each other through our teeny children and many, many hours at playgroups, swimming pools and play centres and, although we moved over the hills a few years ago, we still get together every now and again to share home cooked food and lots of laughter.

On a chilly spring night we last met up over in the spa town for dinner at J & A's. It was a fabulous Thai evening and we ate sweetcorn fritters, fragrant green curry and coconut ice cream with luscious mango. A's lemon grass martinis were out of this world. So what to cook for our turn?
We love to cook and eat seasonally and enjoy what's best from our local farms and producers when we can so that was where I started from. Our produce is a little thin on the ground so far (apart from early peas, tons of mint from my mum and last autumn's raspberries from the allotment I had in the freezer) so I turned to our smashing butcher, the greengrocer and his vibrant stall for ideas, as well as a little inspiration from Mr Slater.

Menu for a Summer's Evening

:: Baked field mushrooms with broad beans, early peas, goat's cheese, mint and lemon thyme ::

:: Roast shoulder of spring lamb with garlic, cumin and garden mint ::
:: Sweet potato gratin ::
:: New season broccoli ::

:: Lemon ricotta cheesecake with confit of lemons ::

:: Raspberry & elderflower Bellinis ::

It all went really nicely, my portion control wasn't fantastic and I ought to have made two gratins and cooked more broccoli but I think we were all pretty well fed overall and we laughed ourselves daft as usual. It would have been lovely to sip our cocktails in the garden and watch the midsummer moon rise over the meadows but never mind.

My culinary confidence is definitely growing so we've promised to have everyone back for a harvest supper in September. Yum.

Friday 24 June 2011

Midsummer : Sports Day

Finally the rain held off just long enough for the whole school to get outside today and have some fun. This morning we cheered on the little ones jumping in sacks, carrying eggs on spoons and jumping as far as they could.
Later on it was the top of the school's turn to show off their skills with hockey sticks, skipping ropes, running relays and racing to put on as many clothes as possible.
Everyone seemed to have a smashing time and the general opinion was that we were all glad to see an element of competitiveness back after last year's extraordinarily pc affair. There was chance for everyone to have a go to test themsleves and sometimes against others too and no child seemed the worse off for it.
And we got to enjoy the lovely views from the school field (the building on the right was the infants' school years ago and is now a rather nice tea room). I love that our little boys go to school in such a beautiful place with the village and farmland around them.
In the distance you can see the dark hills of the Peak District rising above the town. Not a bad spot for learning I think.

Sunday 12 June 2011

June Garden

I need reminding today of what a summer garden really looks like because outside here the rain has pummelled my poor plants into submission all day and it's a paltry 8 degrees c. Flaming June literally. This is what it feels like to be on the brink of a drought then?!
Hardy Geranium Johnson's Blue (I think?)
This is the joy of living in England, who knows how the day will pan out? I woke up to sunshine and scudding clouds but by the time breakfast was over the sky was grey and the rain soon followed. It'll be dark before it clears but things look better for tomorrow (when I'm stuck in the office - typical)
Just the other day it was like this - blissful, just the day for a garden project. Remember this old thing, well the extremely generous people at Days Gone By Deckchairs offered to help me out with her restoration.
From far too shabby to be chic, to a new garden friend in a very short while thanks to the most marvellous canvas, upholstery nails and a little bit of hammering and bashing. Thank you so much! I did mean to take some photos of how I did it but got rather tangled up in things as you can imagine, (and it still needs tightening up a little too.)
New deckchair canvas in Margate stripes by Days Gone By Deckchairs
Re-slinging a deckchair is one of the very easiest things I've done and with these delicious fabrics with such evocative names, I feel cushions for the garden bench and perhaps covers for the caravan seats in the pipeline.
New deckchair canvas in Rothesay
Anyone with a hankering for the feel of a traditional English afternoon (not quite as traditional as today mind you!) will adore what's on offer at Days Gone By Deckchairs. Do stop by and have a look
Now I have somewhere perfect to sit back and enjoy the garden just doing its thing if the sun ever returns.
Astrantia Roma
We're still very ahead after that hot spring, about 2-3 weeks I think which, all being well, means there'll be time for a second flush of my favourite perennials when this early show is over. The weeds are smothering my allotment to be honest, it's been too wet lately to spend much time up there but the early peas are cropping now and our first strawberries aren't far off.
Front garden
Nepeta (catmint) Six Hills Giant, lupins, pinks about to pop and Alchemilla Mollis (Lady's Mantle)
Knautia Macedonia
Foxgloves & Lupins
Come back soon summer. Remember - it's supposed to be like this!

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Dorset Ramblings

For most of our week away we clung to the coastline, discovering new beaches and enjoying old favourites. But we did venture inland too and had a good old nosey around some of the villages I stayed in as a child and into the county town to the dinosaur museum when the rain poured all day (what a life saver!)
At Charmouth we dug in volcanic dirt and sand for fossil treasures and did battle with the sea.
West Bay was an especially brilliant discovery with its jolly harbour and soaring cliffs, fulmars and racing waves that take your breath away.
Oh and did I mention the Vintage Market... a solo trip there as I'm sure you can imagine! Gosh it was quite fantastic and if I wasn't quite so skint I'd have hauled all sorts of treasures home in our van. A new/old chair, tray and a couple of lovely old kitchen utensils bits were the sum of my haul. It was a smashing event, lovely atmosphere and very reasonable on the whole I thought. When I am flush (if ever) I will definitely return and explore some more of the delightful Bridport on a busier day.

Ahhhh, Winterbourne Steepleton. We stayed in a mill cottage next door to this church the year my dad was 40. We couldn't understand why he didn't want to celebrate with a massive bash and was happy pootling with us in Dorset. I'll be 40 in a few short years and now I can see exactly why he was so content.
This is my another of my dad's favourite places- Lulworth Cove. There's everything here that a boy could need; sand, sea and a shovel.
Inland Dorset is like a time capsule in places. The bin, car and satellite dish aside, I was half expecting Miss Marple or DCI Foyle (admittedly a bit out of his patch) emerge at any moment.
Such a blissful week that will stay with us for a very long time. Thank you Dorset, be back soon.

Monday 6 June 2011

Caravan Tales

One of the best things about our little break away has been falling in love at last with our caravan. We've had it for two years now but this is the first time we've had a proper holiday away in it. For the most part it's been a pretty expensive play house and place to store bags of old stuff for the charity shop.
It's taken us a while to fix it up, get everything working and to be honest build up the confidence to get out on the open road. But now we have and it was just the best. My favourite part of the day was waking up early  and having my first brew of the day either snuggled in my cosy bed or out on the grass on one of our stripey chairs (all thrifted finds) watching the boys play pyjama cricket while I took in the morning.
And I actually got around to prettying it up a little. I've had this fabric for ages and at last it's in the caravan and looks just like I hoped. There's only so much beige velour a girl can take! The swirly wallpaper will have to stay but a few old books and postcards have made it feel a little more like a home away from home.
The boys loved being away so very much. I'll admit that the levels of noise and over-excitedness got rather a bit too much on several occasions and sometimes the elastic snapped and words were spoken but on the whole it was pretty perfect. Amazing how a spot of drawing can calm things down.
We stayed out most days until the light started to go, had beachy picnics or fish and chips for tea and then perhaps a bottle of pop and a playground romp at a cosy pub before we wended our way back to our little bav for toast, stories and bed .
We got rather used to being careful with the amount of water we used, saving the gas and the battery power. Very make do and mend which is just my cup of tea. I loved being on such a sweet, friendly site and noseying at other people's camping/caravanning set-up - washing lines, picnic tables, multi-multi-multi roomed tents, fairy lights etc.
So we're definitely converted and the next trip has already been booked (Windermere in July for the Air Festival). It was such a lovely break full of special memories. Wagons roll.

Thanks for all your smashing comments, can't tell you how much I appreciate every one. Lovely to hear about your Dorset memories and favourite places. More Dorset adventures next time