the Olympic torch passes by

Exciting stuff. My boys have no idea how amazing it is that they stood next to the Olympic flame today as it passed through Buckingham.

the olympic torch relay

We just happened to be standing in the perfect spot. I can still remember the first Olympic Games I watched on television: Moscow 1980. There was a bear called Misha. I was seven and the memory of the closing ceremony has stayed with me for 32 years. I love thinking that one day they’ll share this memory with their children.

the olympic torch

crochet hearts

What I should be doing: packing boxes for our imminent move. Our we’re NOT moving again move. The one where we move to the seaside and ooh it’s really exciting because I’ve always dreamt of living in a big rambling Victorian house by the sea.

making crochet hearts

What I am doing: making crochet hearts because I can imagine them hanging across the big black iron fireplace in the grown-up sitting room. Because there IS a grown up sitting room. And a playroom with a huge oak fireplace. And an attic that looks over the roofs to the sea.

making crochet hearts

(the pattern for making the hearts is here, incidentally, for those of you on the Facebook page who asked – if you’re not on there, come and say hello).

So I think there should be a bit more packing boxes (look, the joy of instagram is you can even make packing look pretty)

packing boxes

and a bit less faffing about making crochet hearts. But anyway. We’ll get there in the end.

PS – the finished garland. Now I MUST pack.

a rainbow of chaos

I rather like that quote. Very much appropriate on the night before the children go back to school after the holidays and the place is littered with mismatched socks, the wrong coats, and solitary trainers for PE.

why I wish I was a cow

The thing about spring is it’s just so tasty.

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Admit it. You’ve looked at fresh spring grass and thought you’d like to take a bite, haven’t you?

You haven’t, have you. It’s just me. Oh dear. Anyway, never mind.

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I’m sitting in my my mum’s garden. It’s sort-of-almost-warm-enough to sit here on the swing. I’m believing it’s summer when the sun rays warm my legs through my jeans.

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I took lots of photos today (iPhone still – being devoid of a camera when it’s your primary way of seeing the world is horrible, incidentally). They’re the way I see spring. Actually, they’re the way I see everything. Patterns of colour and texture. Tiny flowers peeking out of fresh grass. Green and green and green. I love spring best.

(I think I say that about every season.)

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Thank you so much for all the lovely comments recently. I’ve been a bit rubbish at replying for which I apologise. I’m resolving to be a bit better at blogging more often.

I’ve been wondering how to fit the new life we’re making in with this blog which carried so much of my old life with it. But I realised it doesn’t really matter as long as I’m happy writing and taking photos of things that make me happy. So that’s what I’m going to get back to.

Meanwhile my toes are so cold they’re falling off and I’ve promised to take my boys to the skatepark (again). So I’m off to convince myself it’s almost summer in another part of town. Brrr.

home making

Therapeutic baking. The other day I stood in the little front garden of this new house and pulled out the weeds that were choking the crocuses and dwarf narcissi. The smell of fresh earth hit me and I remembered how good gardening is for the soul. Today I listened to Radio 4 and baked and it was good.

Cupcakes ready to go.

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Blueberry muffins (recipe below, they’re really easy and a million times nicer than the horrible oily ones you get in shops).

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Not sure how long this lot will last. But they look pretty with their lilac and pale pistachio coloured icing. Someone seems to have eaten all the sprinkly things from my baking cupboard, though. Several someones, I suspect.

Photos above all taken with iPhone because my camera is dead. A new one is stupendously expensive. It might be fixable, but it looks like the cost of fixing it might be more than my battered old Canon is worth. Sob.

Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 190c, 375F or Gas 5.

You need 300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp bicarb of soda
a pinch of salt
2 beaten eggs
175g light brown sugar
250ml natural yogurt (or buttermilk would work, and milk at a push but reduce the quantity a bit)
125ml melted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
175g blueberries

Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a biggish bowl
Mix the melted butter, eggs, yogurt, sugar and vanilla in another bowl
Mix the two together, adding the blueberries, and just fold it together a bit (lumpy and bits of flour is fine, undermixing is worse than overmixing these)
Divide them into 12 muffin cups and bake for about 12 minutes.

I can’t remember where I originally found this recipe but I’ve been using it for so long I know the quantities off by heart. You can also do banana (a couple of over-ripe bananas mashed) or chocolate chip (big handful and a mouthful for the cook) or (yum) raspberry and white chocolate chips.

a garden for Melanie

In spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Being a gardening blogger (albeit one with a blogging habit a little like my gardening habit, ie leave everything in autumn, forget about it, then return when the sun shines with renewed enthusiasm) my fancy turns to thoughts of flowers and bees and ooh, gorgeous sunshiny days and the smell of earth and mud under the fingernails.

My friend Melanie (she writes a rather wonderful just-reached-a-million-hits blog as well as being author of several books and one of my favourite people) is venturing into the world of gardening for the first time. So rather than email her, I thought I’d share my thoughts here and you can all have a look. So here you are, M. Just for starters:

First of all, Clematis: Dr Ruppel (I love the blousy, seasidey stripey flowers) and the elegant Niobe which would both grow beautifully in containers or in the ground, depending on how portable you want your garden to be. Clematis are really easy to grow, and give a new garden height and satisfying splodges of colour which make you feel like a proper gardening sort.

Pretty Aquilegia Black Barlow which will self seed year after year and fill your garden with beautiful flowers (which won’t come back true, because aquilegias are contrary beasts). and I think you’ll love Eryngium Alpinum Blue Star.

Depending on your slug situation (I bet you’ve never thought about your slug situation before, have you? Welcome to gardening) hostas are utterly beautiful and also likely to make you feel murderous. Cracked eggshells and copper tape round the pot and incantations by moonlight and coffee grounds and oh, there are a million other things that will help stop slugs having a midnight feast. Well actually they won’t at all, but it’ll make you feel good. Either that or don’t grow hostas. Some people seem to be able to grow huge hulking ones. I bet they use evil blue pellets of doom, though. They’re meaniecats, as child no4 would say. So this Fragrant Blue is a good one to try. And the Prunella Grandiflora Rubra is lovely, too. No idea how it grows, but I think you’ll like it.

Roses. You have to grow lots and lots of roses to fill your garden with scent and bees and beauty. This Black Baccara is utterly gorgeous and will smell heavenly. And after years of loathing them I’ve grown fond of Dahlias but they’re another slug magnet, so if you buy them as tubers rather than established plants (which is cheaper) you’ll need to keep an eye out or they’ll be there one day and completely gone the next.

Look at that. It’s an email to a friend that’s masquerading as a blog post. But hey, it’s a blog post.

2012

New year, new life, new house, new attitude.

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I’m going to finish my book. I’ve spent since July thinking about it, and it’s time to get the rewrites done and start resubmitting it to the agents who said almost, but not quite, and to the publisher who said yes please, we’d like to read more.

There’s something about writing, the act of sitting down with this laptop and letting words fall out of my fingers, which makes me feel whole. I need to let it out. I have words and words and words all jumbled up in my head and they are desperate to escape. So much of last year was taken up with dealing with life and I didn’t have time to lose myself in words. I need them.

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A few days by the seaside always help to clear my head. We saw in the new year in Formby, in a beautiful cottage where the children could rampage around the garden and roll down giant sand dunes, and I had much needed grown up time talking and relaxing and being me. No proper photographs, though, because I managed to forget my camera battery. I won’t make that mistake in a few weeks when I go to France, I promise.

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Happy Christmas

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We’re in the new house. And look, everyone is happy. Hooray. Here’s to 2012 and all it brings. Have a lovely Christmas.