Friday, 9 October 2015

Cook::Sloe Gin

There is so much to love about autumn but one of my very favourite things is to wander the hedgerows seeing what I can forage. This appeals to me on two levels, one because it feeds all my fantasies about being in tune with nature and living the good life  The other is about gathering nature's bounty to make sure that we will survive the winter. Obviously an essential winter nutrient would be sloe gin! 

I picked the sloes a couple of weeks ago because I always like to freeze them because my father once told me that they were better after a frost. It also causes the skins to break slightly, saving you the tedious job of pricking them.Win. 

Sloe Gin
500g sloes, washed and picked over
250g sugar
Peel of an orange
Large jar.

Put everything into a large container and shake the jar to mix.
You will need to keep turning the jar for a few weeks until all the sugar disappears. then let the flavours continue to develop - about three months in all.
Finally strain the liquid through a muslin cloth and decant the nectar into bottles. Voila! It's Christmas! Chin chin!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Soul::A Morning in Autumn

Almost every day I consider myself lucky to live somewhere as beautiful as Malvern. There are,of course, the hills but there are also the surrounding farms and the centre of the town offers us a theatre, a bookshop and some lovely shops and cafes. Then there is the expanse of common ground. The pictures above are taken at the end of my road on just one of the commons in Malvern.
For the past couple of weeks I have been driving past the common at about 7.30 on my way to work. Every morning the sun had been slanting through the trees and the beauty of it has been literally breathtaking. How I had longed to stop the car and walk on the dew glistening grass and in and out of those sunbeams. Instead, eyes back on the road, I headed of to work.
On Sunday morning I woke to a slant of sunshine coming through the bedroom curtains and was seized by the desire to get dressed and get out onto the common. Chugging down the coffee that my lovely boy always brings me, I pulled on some jeans and trainers, grabbed a scarf and my camera and set off down the road.
Lord I was happy that I did! With hardly a soul about it felt like the middle of nowhere.
The half an hour I spent outside feeling so peaceful and calm set me up for the day. It is a cliche but it is also a truism; standing in the sunshine, looking at the trees and listening to morning birdsong is just so good for the soul.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Home::Styling the Seasons::September

I love all the 'Styling The Seasons' posts and have joined in myself once or twice. In fact I always mean to join in but somehow months slip by and I haven't managed to find the time...but this month I am managing it! Even if it is in the dying hours of the month.

So what does September mean to me? It is, like January, a reflection month; a time to look back at summer and forward to the autumn and (whisper it) Christmas. It also brings for me a new school year and so there are resolutions to be made about work. September is also a fruitful month - a time of glut and harvest and I have been foraging in the hedgerows for damsons, sloes and rose-hips although the latter are only destined for decoration. 

When I put together my mantel I was mindful of all these things. There are stones from the beach to go with my beautiful painting of the sea, hedgerow gatherings and books and letters. One of my very favourite things about the drawing in of the evenings is the lighting of candles. I am increasingly only using bees wax candles - their subtle scent is another element left over from summer and fills me with a sense of happy quietude. 

So there it is September on my mantel.

 Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots 
“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Adventures::Croft Castle

A few weeks ago we went to one of our favourite NT places, Croft Castle in Herefordshire. About 40 minutes from us it is a beautiful place to set out to. It was a (rare) sunny August day and I had been begging for another visit; it had been a couple of years since I last went and there had been some changes.
One of the new attractions that we loved was the natural playground and Finn, who has newly adopted a too cool for school type attitude recently, soon forgot his superior age and got stuck in.

The park and woodland is beautiful and there are so many walks you can do. We have a couple marked out that we definitely want to go back for. There are many viewpoints that either look east to Hereford and Worcestershire or west to the glorious Black Mountains.

But the bit I love the most is the walled garden. I am a complete sucker for a walled garden and this is a brilliant example of one. There are secret paths, beds for the kitchens, an orchard and deck chairs where you could flop and laze. Now, only a few weeks later, it is hard to imagine the warmth that encourages the gentle buzz and hum of insects, perfect background music to fall asleep to, but that is just what we did in that beautiful setting. Even Finn and his friend Joe were stilled momentarily by the soporific atmosphere. Really there are few nicer places than a well kept garden basking in the summer sun.

It was hard to leave such a lovely place, but promises were made to return soon and to enjoy its pleasures on a crisper day...

Friday, 25 September 2015

Adventures::The Goodlife Experience

Some times in life you experience something that makes you stop and reconsider. Last weekend we (Mark, Finn, his friend Spike and myself) set off for Harwarden in Flintshire to go to The Good Life Experience, a festival curated by Cerys Matthews (love her) and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone of Pedlars fame. I knew that it was going to be good having read so many positive reviews of the festival last year but I didn't know how much I would love the whole weekend.
Firstly we hired a bell tent. This was a luxury and a necessity - I couldn't leave work until quite late and I really didn't want to set up camp in the dark...

I really want a bell tent; just saying.

Most of my first photos were taken early Saturday morning - we really had a campsite with a view.

Everything about the festival was beautiful, the landscape, the thoughtful way everything was set up, the weather and mostly the people. So many friendly faces were there and I loved meeting so many on line friends, some again and some for the first time. All of them were such beautiful women who I was so proud to meet and spend time with. There is something about a blogger isn't there?

What I loved most was the opportunity to spend time away from the norm. Often I am so busy and life seems to crowd in and not allow space to think and stretch. There are running lists in my head of things I want to do and read but I never settle to actually doing them. The great gift of this weekend was the chance to do and think. Oh it was heaven. The space to sketch (I love Jennie Maizels and I am joining her online sketchbook club this weekend), whittle a stick or two, dance to music, especially Revolucionarios Cubanos, Public Service Broadcasting and Big Boss Man and listen to some wonderful talks was just heaven.My watchword for this year has been 'simplify' and this weekend typified everything I hoped that word would stand for. It has had a deep effect on me - I am even more determined to strip back the clutter (mental and physical) from my life. I thought it was brilliant when Jennie said that we should get out our sketchbooks and sketch rather than get out our phones. YES!

 Catrin Finch was sublime and the perfect Sunday morning listen.

 The cooking demonstrations were fantastic - I loved this one by Henry Herbert - he was cooking campfire doughnuts which looked and smelt amazing...

I do wish I could have gone on the mushroom walk - look what they found! Amazing and so beautiful.

Now the question is - how do we get the good life feeling to stay until we get to go again next year? Any ideas?