In a Vase on Monday: rule breakers

It’s absolutely revolting weather today – I’ve been soaked twice already (pantomime-style, bucket-of-water soakings), the trees are swaying alarmingly in the 50 mph winds, the swell is high and the sea is extremely lively. I’m glad I’m not out there on a boat. Lucky, then, that I ventured into the garden yesterday afternoon, when it was sunny and calm, to see whether there was anything vase-worthy for today. The afternoon light was so golden and soft that I cheated and took the photos yesterday, too!

You would normally expect only two of the flowers in my jam jar to be flowering in January – the hazel catkins and the Viburnum tinus (although this usually flowers in late winter–early spring). The Nigella and Cerinthe major usually flower from late spring into summer; the Ammi visnaga and Hesperantha  in summer/autumn. It’s disconcerting to find these, all apart from the Hesperantha self-seeded plants, flowering now, in mid-January, but we are on the coast and it has been fairly mild, and the usual rules do not apply it seems!

Accompanying them are a few stems of Prunus padus (bird cherry) which I’m going to keep in water to see whether they’ll come into leaf indoors, some rosehips from ‘Boscobel’ which I must have missed in the autumn, a few tendrils of variegated Vinca and a Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ leaf from a huge plant still going strong by the greenhouse.

There is proper wintery weather forecast for later in the week with heavy snow for parts of the UK. The maps don’t show it reaching this corner of the country, though, so who knows what will be flowering next week…

It’s lovely to be joining in again with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly gathering of garden bloggers from around the world. She is showcasing three fragrant winter shrubs. Whatever the weather is like where you are, I hope you’re safe, warm and dry. Have a good week.

Sunrise earlier this week (on a much calmer day).

Resilient and resolute (January thoughts)

I know we’re over it, but I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was peaceful; the usual hectic rush beforehand but it all came together on the day – everyone had wrapped gifts which were well-received, there was plenty of food, the house was decorated. We all welcomed the excuse to eat, drink and be merrily lazy. We chatted, played Scrabble, went to a few lovely parties and watched a few programmes on our fabulous new tv (trying to watch Blue Planet II on our rubbish old one was the last straw). The best Christmas telly for me, by far, was Little Women; such a beautiful adaptation. All the women in our house loved it. Some of the men did, too.

That’s all we did, really, for about a week. The boys were supposed to be revising for their mock GCSEs and A-levels – honestly, what school would set their mock exams straight after the Christmas holidays? Well, theirs would. And I’ve heard of a few others. Sigh. My sons took a very dim view of this meanness, so only did some cursory revision. I took the view that I wasn’t going to spoil Christmas by being on their case. To be honest, I secretly admire their refusal to feel the considerable pressure and I’m sure they’ll gear up for the real things in the summer.

We all went back to school and work last Tuesday (2nd) which was a rude shock of a start to the new year but I’m getting in the groove now. Normal routine is on hold while the boys have exams; they only need to be in school when they have an actual exam so I’ll be taxi-ing back and forth to the station  for the rest of this week. Back to normal, normal next week.

I couldn’t bring myself to take down our lovely tree last week – that would have been too harsh – so I waited until twelfth night on Friday to pack Christmas away again for another year. I’ve been cooking vegetables (that urge for green and crunch and vitamins and minerals that you can taste after all the rich unhealthy food; this roast aubergine with curried yoghurt, caramelised onion and pomegranate recipe is outstanding); peeling and chomping on oranges and grapefruit to stave off winter germs; and going for long, muddy dog walks (the mud!). David and I did venture into the garden yesterday with the thought of pruning our apple and pear trees but it was so shockingly cold that we had a quick walk round, looked at what needed doing and promptly came back indoors to put the kettle on! Brrr. That job will have to wait.

I know many people find January a difficult month in the northern hemisphere – the seemingly never-ending grey, wet, dreary days and dark evenings – but I don’t mind it. It’s David’s birthday month, there are fires and candles to be lit, and there are signs of spring already. I spied fat hellebore buds peeking out from the leaf litter yesterday and the snowdrops are coming. There is a lot to look forward to.

A couple of recommendations if you need a pick-me-up: the first is The Greatest Showman – a wonderful, exhilarating and life-affirming film with a corker of a soundtrack. My 13-year-old has been humming it non-stop. The second is the awesome Oprah Winfrey’s  speech at the Golden Globe Awards. I’m sure you’ll have heard it by now but do click on the link if you haven’t. Oprah for President?

And, finally,

A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is agreeably stirred; the wits become more nimble.

So said Winston Churchill, reportedly, and I agree. (Several glasses will have the opposite effect, but let’s not dwell on that.) I feel the same about the first mug of tea of the day, a morning coffee after walking my dog and a weekend G&T before dinner. There are times when only a particular drink will do. Champagne is for celebrations, for toasting, for hopes and dreams, so I raise my imaginary glass to you and rather belatedly wish you a Happy New Year. Here’s to 2018 – nerves braced, imagination stirring, wits creaking into action. Hurrah!

Have a great week.

PS You may have noticed that I haven’t made any changes to my blog. A little rest did me good and I’m content to plod on with it as it is for now. Thank you for your kind comments back in November x

Christmas Wishes

Hello! How’s it going? I hope your festive preparations (if you are celebrating Christmas) are coming together smoothly with minimal pre-holiday panic.

My children all finished school last Friday and they are busy catching up on sleep and socialising. Our tree is up and decorated – bickering teenagers don’t create the same magical atmosphere as excited little children, but it happened and only one set of lights didn’t work. I’ll bring more greenery indoors this week and enjoy doing that quietly before anyone else is up. I think I’m there with the present-buying and card-writing but there is still plenty to do (wrapping, food-shopping and making, cleaning, tidying…). You know how it is. I am feeling calmer than I usually do at this point, though!

This is the time of year when I stop and remember people – those I have loved and do love, people I know and don’t know personally. It is important for me to appreciate them and all that I have, and to try to spread the love a little. If you have a few spare moments, I highly recommend reading these blog posts that capture the spirit of the season for me – CJ’s moving post about her late aunt, Lynda’s post about a Christmas book (gorgeously festive) and Jane’s post about her Christmas spirit in the outback.

I would like to thank you for visiting this tiny space in the ether and for sharing it with me. I wish you and your loved-ones a wonderful Christmas and may 2018 be healthy, happy and fulfilling.

Sam x


I’ve not written here much lately. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about; I could write reams and reams but it would most likely be the tired ramblings of a middle-aged mother who’s slightly fraying at the edges, and no-one wants to read that. I also haven’t taken many photos lately and I haven’t done anything worth writing about in the garden for weeks and weeks (sadly). There are still bulbs to plant, for goodness’ sake… Work and family commitments have overtaken everything else and I need to simplify my list of things to do for a while.

When I started this blog, I intended it to be about gardening, and a record of what we were doing with our plot (hence the name), with a little sprinkling of my family life thrown in. Instead, it has become an ‘eclectic mix’ of jugs of flowers (linking to the In a Vase on Monday meme, which I love), anything that is on my mind at the time of writing, a tiny bit of baking and the occasional update on the garden. I think it’s time to press the pause button to regroup and reassess.

Thank you for visiting my blog, for reading and for commenting; I am hugely grateful and it’s been wonderful to make so many lovely friends here. I will continue to read and comment on other blogs and will return at some point. In the meantime, I wish you all peace, love and contentment.

Sam x


In a Vase on Monday: Chocolate Box


Today is the fourth anniversary of Cathy at Rambling in the Garden‘s weekly meme, In a Vase on Monday. She has posted 208 vases and visited and commented on all the other contributors’ blogs pretty much every week since 2013! That deserves a huge thank you, not least for brightening our Mondays but for supporting and encouraging our efforts at plonking (or carefully arranging) what we’ve picked from our gardens and surrounds in vases, jugs, bowls, and so on. To mark this week, she challenged us to use something unusual…


We had a furniture move-round yesterday and while I was clearing books off a shelf, I found this lovely empty box of chocolates. Hmmmm…. Chocolates, gift, celebration, flowers… You see how my thought process went?

So, to celebrate four years of In a Vase on Monday and to thank Cathy for hosting it is a fancy box of flowerheads (mostly pink Agyranthemums with one pelargonium in the centre). Thank you, Cathy 🙂

Do pop over to her place to see her flowers today and links to all the other IAVOMers (there are some clever and funny ones).

Have a lovely week.


In a vase on Monday: in denial

Joining in with Cathy’s Monday gathering of vases is a lovely way to keep an eye on what’s going on in the garden and to mark the seasons passing but my garden is still merrily ignoring the fact that it is 6th November. For my vase today, I’ve picked a snapdragon, osteospermums, nasturtiums, a single pink rose, a stem of hesperantha, some sprigs of rosemary, a few scented pelargonium leaves and a few stems of guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) to add some autumn colour.

My garden is in denial and so am I. Yes, there’s now a chill in the air and there was even a little frost in the fields this morning but it doesn’t seem that long ago that the children went back to school after the summer holidays. Bonfire night took me by surprise and I’m certainly not ready to be seeing festive adverts on the tv and the shops full of glitter. I haven’t made cake or puddings (we have one from last year in the cupboard, so maybe I’ll skip pudding-making this year), or really thought very much about it. I would quite like time to Slow Down!

How about you? Are you organised and in the zone or are you taken by surprise by the unstoppable Christmas countdown?

Whatever your calendar situation, I wish you a lovely week ahead.


Where even the sheep (and teenagers) smile

Happy herdwick sheep

Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland … no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it.”  A.Wainwright


Hello! I hope this finds you well and that everything is ticking along nicely in your world. It’s amazing to think it’s 2nd November today – standing outside, gazing out to sea with the warm (yes, properly warm) sun on my face this morning, it could have been September. There are still bees and other insects buzzing about in the garden, making the most of these golden autumnal days. There is still colour from zinnias and nasturtiums and cosmos – perky annuals boldly ignoring the fact that winter is coming. It’s a gift of a day.

I quickly wanted to share a few photos from our trip to the Lake District last week. October half term is when we hot-foot it to Cumbria if we can – although we have never lived there, we’ve been visiting and walking in the Lakes for years, BC (Before Children) and AC, and we do, as Wainwright says, almost feel like exiles when we’re not there. October is a beautiful time of year to visit and if we’re lucky with the weather there are enough hours of daylight to go on long expeditions into the mountains. The weather wasn’t great this year but we didn’t mind too much. We were all very tired and used the excuse of the heavy wind and rain (storm Brian) to sleep in, curl up and read, watch films and have long lunches. By Wednesday, though, we were restored enough and the weather was calm enough for us to head out for a Big Walk. David’s sister joined us from Warrington and his brother, his wife and one of his daughters drove from Norfolk for a couple of days – they all grew up in the north-west and often walked in the Lakes, so it’s almost become a mini annual pilgrimage.

We set off – 5 adults, 4 teenagers, 2 dogs – with pockets and rucksacks bulging with supplies, following the route David had planned the night before from our cottage in Patterdale, into Grisedale Valley, up to Grisedale Tarn, then a steep scramble up to the top of Fairfield (2863ft). The summit of Fairfield is a grassy plateau; Wainwright says, “Mention should be made of the excellent turf on this wide top: weary feet will judge it delightful.” Our weary feet were very grateful for it and the views were certainly worth the effort of getting there. The walk home to Patterdale wasn’t all downhill. We climbed down to Cofa Pike then up and across a ridge to St Sunday Crag (what a great name) and followed the ridge up and down, along and back down to the village with the magnificent view of Ullswater before us. This route was, as Wainwright remarks, “…an exhilarating and beautiful walk.”

We didn’t get lost in clouds, we didn’t get soaked, we had enough food, no-one went off in a strop (it has been known), the dogs didn’t try to chase the sheep (firm hands on leads) – seven and a half hours after setting off, we were all back at the cottage, smiling and tired, slightly sore-footed and looking forward to a slap-up meal in the pub. It may have been the last Big Walk we will do as a family for a while – this time next year my eldest son will hopefully be at university, a fact that wasn’t lost on him and may have been why he seemed to enjoy it so much.


Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments on my previous post; sorry I haven’t replied individually yet. I am still mulling it all over 🙂 More soon.

Have a lovely weekend.