Tuesday, 16 September 2014


One of the things I love about walking at this time of year are the treasures we collect to bring home. One of my all time favourites are conkers. I love their sheen, the cool smooth feel of them in my hand. This Sunday's walk also delivered a haul of beautiful damsons - almost 2kg and we left the branches laden still. Just as soon as I get the chance there will be jam made. I love autumn.

September Mantel

August never did get a mantel of its own - most of the month was spent in Ireland and we were too busy being outside to be much inspired by inside. However September heralds the start of Autumn and my very favourite time of the year.
I felt the changing season demanded a different colour pallet, something more natural and subtle than the blues and greens of summer. I had foraged some wild oats on a local walk and have begun to collect pine cones, like I do every year. They will remain dotted around my home for all the winter months as they have done for years on end.
Another regular autumnal ritual is to light candles and surround myself with the gentle, scented glow that they give off. It is these regular rituals that offer comfort and prepare me for the months ahead; the months when you want your home to wrap its arms about you.

Vintage Sheet Addict has also blogged about her mantel here. Do pop over and see her lovely, crafty blog.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Around Here Lately

Things have been very quiet in this little corner recently, term started and work exploded into a frenzy of planning, introspection and meetings. It has taken me two weeks to re-establish a work system that allows me to draw boundaries and to separate work from home.
After the first week I was a very stressed and finding hard to relax and it was Mark who took things in hand; he forced me outside and we headed for the hills. As always the hills worked their magic balm on me and reminded me of all the blessings in my life and the magnificent place that I live in. Getting outside and being in nature is always good for the soul...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Back to school

I have been thinking about my wardrobe a lot recently and at the end of the summer holiday I started a major clean out. I have always been drawn to the idea of a capsule wardrobe but I am finding myself wanting to own fewer and fewer clothes. The ones that I do own I want to be hard working and of great quality and of a simple, classic design.
Just before term started I pulled out all of my clothes and had a really good look at all of them. Out went anything that I didn't enjoy wearing, was looking tatty or was uncomfortable to wear. I also banned the 'just in case' items - those occasions never seemed to happen anyway.
It is still a work in process and I am sure that there are more items to lose. However there are some gaps; I need a skirt and a plain grey jumper and a new pair of winter boots.  So. some lovely shopping ahead of me then!
What I have loved about this process is the clarity of knowing what is in my wardrobe. I have found getting dressed so much easier and now feel comfortable in everything I own. That's got to be good surely.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Wild joys of Living

I am lucky that my job allows me a wonderfully long summer holiday and I put aside four weeks where I luxuriate in doing nothing work related and in the space that is left there is the joy of simply

I am finding it hard to give that space up this summer.

 For the past two weeks I have been dipping into work with results, data and meetings plus working on next year's strategies and how I can lead my lovely department into something awesome. Already I can feel work cares pulling at me, sleeplessness at 2am is creeping back in. I need to get back to the routine, remember my need for balance and never forget to make the time for those 'wild joys of living'. Don't you love these lines from Browning? I am putting them up in my classroom to remind me every day.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Hot Housed in Belfast

Seeing saltwatered feet all over instagram/blogs has made me smile so much this summer.

When I first visited Belfast way back in 1989 it was a city under siege; at least that it is what it seemed to me. Mark seemed oblivious to the road blocks, the guns, the feeling of tension in the air but he had grown up with it; I had had a much more sheltered upbringing in the leafier parts of England. Although this was not my first return visit I was so struck by what a cool brilliant city Belfast has become. Great caf├ęs, shopping, places to eat and just be. The university is beautiful and the botanic gardens inthe centre are an oasis of calm.

I love palm houses don't you? I love their warmth and verdant beauty. Those Victorians knew what they were about when it comes to building places like this. Just looking at these photos makes me feel the calm I felt whilst there. Heaven.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Apples - Grow::Forage::Cook

Since coming back from holiday I have been catching up, washing, and dealing with the bumper apple crop. A wonderful catch up has been with the two brilliant blogs, Circle of Pines and Wolves in London. I instantly loved their idea of posting about the food we have grown, foraged and cooked and have been playing along on instagram adding #growforagecook to the relevant posts.

Mostly I have been making apple based desserts and fruit compotes to freeze for our winter porridge but a couple of days Finn begged for toffee apples, a wonderful late summer treat. We had toffee to spare which we spread and scattered with fruit and nuts to eat with ice-cream this weekend. A teeth sticking, sweet treat!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A Perfect Day

There are some days that are so special that they acquire the glow of glamour in your memory. Do you know what I mean? We had just such a day on the 7th of this month; the day of Mark's 50th birthday.

We had been planning the day for a while - Mark knew he wanted to be in Ireland and he had invited some of our closest friends to join us for a few days. It is a sign of how greatly he is loved that they did just that.

With anxious eyes we watched the weather because what he really wanted to do was picnic on the beach. We had no need to worry - Ireland put on her best frock and the day dawned bright and clear.

Our day started in the harbour town of Baltimore, West Cork. We gathered together to get the ferry across to Sherkin Island, one of our favourite places in the entire world. Our bags were loaded with wet suits, balls, books, picnic food, champagne and blankets. All the essentials!

We put together a delicious lunch of fish, veggie kebabs, asparagus spears and rice salad all washed down with champagne and the fresh air that always makes a beach barbecue taste extra delicious.

The rest of the time was spent swimming, playing beach games and building stone monuments, just perfect. The amazing one on the right was not our work - there is a mysterious beach artist at work on Sherkin!

All too soon it was time to come off the island. All we could all talk about was how perfect the day had been whilst we waited for the ferry. What we didn't know was that it was about to get even more amazing. Just as the ferry left dock a dolphin appeared and followed the boat, leaping from side to side as we journeyed towards the main land. How perfect was that?

To round it all of we sat in a harbour-side bar eating pizza and watching an amazing sun set. It was a truly perfect day.


Mid August sees us celebrate the birthday of our beautiful Fergus. God how I love this young man - he is a delight to spend time with.I have sung his praises before - here and here - but it remains true. He really is simply lovely. Plus he really rocks my old wayfarers - ray-bans bought in the 80's - soooo cool.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Top of the Rock - I love glamping!

I have been a camper for years; as a child, a girl guide, as part of a young couple and as a family. I love dragging the tent out and getting everything ready. I love the smell of the tent and waking up in the morning to the sounds of the camp site.  However in all our camping years we have never camped in Ireland. It is a beautiful place but the weather is too unstable and I simply don't do two weeks of being damp...

Way back in the start of spring we were starting to plan our trip; we had a middle and an end but there were a few days at the start to fill. Neither Mark nor I really remember how we stumbled across Top of the Rock Pod Pairc, it was one of those wanders around the internet that starts in one place and leads to another, but we are both so glad that we did. 

The pods are based on the ancient architecture of Gallurus Oratory. The setting is beautiful, on a hill farm with mountain views. The surroundings were full of wildlife as well as the animals you expect to find on a farm. The pods are a very simple structure and I think rather beautiful. Ours had a double bed, toilet, sink and kettle and a pull out bed for the boys. We just had Finn and Fergus with us at this time. There is room for an extra mattress if needed. 

I have to say that one of my favourite things about our stay was the wonderful welcome given to us by the owners David and Elizabeth Ross. They were happy to spend time chatting and telling us about the wonderful walks in the area. Elizabeth also made the most wonderful scones which we ordered every morning for breakfast. They came with yogurt and butter from a local farm and Elizabeth's homemade raspberry jam. Delicious. In the evenings a fire was lit and us happy campers gathered to chat and enjoy the warmth of the flames as well as the warmth of companionship.

What ever led us to Top of the Rock it was a lucky find; we loved our time there and will certainly go back.