Five on Friday: Hello February

Violets under the front step.
We had a wood delivery on Monday…
Tulips! They’re coming ūüôā
Snowdrops are starting to unfurl. They’ll be peaking in a couple of weeks.
This is a very fine and hardy borage plant, sitting bolt upright in our veg patch. Frost? Pah.

¬†There’s a definite whisper of spring in the air, a tiny hint, a minuscule glimmer ‚Äď it’s warmer than it has been; warm enough to go outside to take some photos without wearing a big winter coat, hat, scarf, mittens… There are bulb shoots and buds galore and the birds are starting to get busy. February 1st was¬†St Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, and marks the¬†start of the pagan festival of spring. I only know this because I read it on Sultanabun’s blog last year and looked it up. Her blog regularly makes me laugh out loud and I learn stuff, properly interesting stuff.

Two ¬†February is punctuated by half term ‚Äď a week off from the regular routine. There’s one more¬†week of school and then the children will be at home all day ‘resting’. It doesn’t seem five minutes since they went back to school after the Christmas holidays. My middle son has made it through this¬†week of school (early nights, no sports) and is hopefully fully on the mend but it’ll be good for him to have more time¬†to recharge soon.

Three  I went out last night for pizza, prosecco and pudding with friends. The friend who hosted the evening is an extremely Good Cook and produced a succession of delicious handmade pizzas while we all guzzled prosecco spiked with raspberry liqueur, chatted and laughed. The whole evening was a tonic and just what I needed.

Four ¬†‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two…’ ‚Äď we’ve been treated to renditions¬†from ‘Oliver’ for weeks and weeks now. They are such ear-worms catchy tunes. My daughter is an orphan and an urchin in her school’s production. There have been two performances so far, we’re all going to see it this evening, and there’s a matinee and evening performance tomorrow. She’s loving every minute of it but I suspect she’ll be much quieter come Sunday.

Five ¬†I took a few photos of stuff lined up on the kitchen¬†windowsill because I thought it would make a good photo. It wasn’t until I uploaded the pictures that I noticed how filthy the windows are and I’m too embarrassed¬†to show you! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to clear clutter or¬†wipe a surface before taking photos or artfully crop them afterwards. There’s an admirable Instagram hashtag called ‘reallifehome’ as an antidote to all the perfectly styled pics. I’m generally all for it but my mum reads my blog ūüôā

I’m delighted to be joining in with Amy¬†for her Five on Friday.

Have a lovely weekend x


Five on Friday: brevity




One ¬†I’m a big fan of ornamental grasses. Tall ones (such as Miscanthus)¬†add drama and height; fluffy ones (such as Stipa tenuissima) add softness, and all of them¬†bring¬†movement and a delicate touch to a border. I’ve been taking the time to properly look at the combinations of grasses and wildflowers on my daily dog walks. They have been looking wonderful for weeks now ‚Äď the blends¬†in nature are exquisite. The subtle colours of¬†different grasses really are astounding¬†and they look so beautiful in the early morning or evening sunshine. An inspiring tapestry of wild plants. Nature really does it¬†best.

Two ¬†There’s a new house being built at the end of our road. It has a wavy, modern design that makes the most of its sea-facing position. Opinions are polarised: some people love it; others hate it. I love it. Best of all it has a green roof. I’ve been keeping an eye on it as the plants have grown and I can’t work out whether they grew from seeds already there or whether the roof has been colonised by local native plants ‚Ästthey do look very at-home in the landscape. Whatever, it’s a lovely sight. I took this¬†photo a few weeks ago when the skies were blue…

Three  Our lavender beds are in full bloom. The scent is delicious. It would be lovely to have a few sunny, still days to appreciate them in full. The weather has been dismal all week. I actually wore my winter coat for a damp dog walk this morning.

Four ¬†Self-sown Nigella has taken over the ‘veg patch’ in the back garden so I’ve been pulling out clumps and sticking them in vases indoors. There are no actual veg in the patch this year. We just have a lot of raspberries and strawberries, and tomatoes growing in the greenhouse. I’ve gone big on flowers. Pragmatic gardening.

Five ¬†My¬†middle child will be away next week at a¬†CCF camp ‚Äď the activities include climbing, mountain biking, archery, fieldcraft and¬†an overnight ambush. He’ll have a ball. My¬†eldest¬†will be at home doing as little as possible, so it’ll just be the youngest who’ll be going to school. She’s not terribly impressed about that. Still, it’s less than three weeks until the summer holidays. Yikes.

Have a lovely weekend. I’m¬†hoping for some sunshine and some time in the garden.

Joining in with Amy and her popular Five on Friday. Thank you, Amy.

PS I managed to write a post without mentioning you-know-what! Oh… Drat ūüôā


Five on (a Fine) Friday


Joining in with Amy for her weekly Five on Friday (scraping in at the last minute, thank you, Amy!).

One ¬†I¬†begin or end of most of my dog walks by standing here and admiring this view, noticing whether it’s low or high tide, whether the sea is rough or calm, watching the ships and ferries, listening to the birds. Up until last week there was a waist-high froth of Alexanders and cow parsley in front of the gate but it’s been cut, along with the verges around the junctions on the main road to keep sight lines clear for drivers. The coastal path and clifftops are¬†safe from the cutters¬†‚Äď over the next few¬†weeks there will be pyramidal orchids, viper’s bugloss and other gorgeous wild flowers.

Oxeye daisies are beautifying the lanes and roadsides round here. I’ve been admiring this patch near the station for a week or so and¬†took a quick snap this morning.


Two ¬†What a difference a¬†week makes ‚Äď the first¬†photo was taken last Thursday, the second¬†was taken yesterday. More daisies, more hawthorn blossom. It’s as though someone has shaken white petals all over the place with sheer abandon. I can’t remember ever seeing as many daisies and buttercups as there are this year. It’s quite thrilling.


Three¬† I made this Rhubarb Shortbread. Let’s just say it’s more-ish and leave it at that. I saw the recipe recommended on CT’s blog and she got it from CJ. Sharing fabulous recipes is¬†one of the many wonders of blogging ūüôā


Four   There was no school today (it was a teacher-training-day). The younger two were at home but my eldest still had to go in for the second half of his English Literature GCSE (you can imagine how delighted he was about that). My youngest managed to persuade me to take her in to Canterbury to meet some friends and I decided to stay there while they went off to look around the shops. I do like Canterbury. I sometimes miss the anonymity of the city, crowds of people and hustle and bustle, and Canterbury is where I get my quick fix. While I was waiting for the girls I decided to have a mooch around the cathedral grounds. The bells were ringing as there was a wedding in the crypt, there were large groups of tourists looking round, gardeners and builders working away (the cathedral is undergoing major repairs at the moment) and a definite air of purpose about the place.


Five ¬†The wild patch at the bottom of our garden where we sowed a chalk wildflower mix last spring is suddenly thigh-high. We have our own¬†oxeye daisies! Loads of buds and some in flower. I’ll have to dig out the list to remind myself what else there¬†should be.

Have a splendiferous weekend.

Five on Friday

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Joining in again with Amy’s Five on Friday, I offer you five random observations from¬†this¬†week:

One¬†¬†As well as blue skies and delicious, warm sunshine, grey overcast skies¬†and¬†heavy rain, we had¬†a day of sea mist¬†that shrouded the sea and clifftops with billowing, hazy clouds. I had the unsettling¬†experience of standing in the garden in the sunshine with¬†the mist occasionally rolling through, sending the temperature plummeting. It looks like smoke and it’s quite eerie when it happens. Sometimes, in the summer, it can be hot and sunny when¬†a mist will suddenly cloud the horizon and roll in off the sea. I know it as a ‘sea fret’ but it’s also known as a ‘haar’: a cold, sea fog caused by warm air condensing over the cold sea. It’s upset many a beach picnic.

Two¬†¬†The hedgerows are positively exploding with all¬†this sunshine and spring rain. There’s fresh cow parsley, golden-green Alexanders, white nettle flowers… Walking the dog takes longer when it’s so gorgeous as I have to stop and admire what’s going on. Cassie doesn’t seem to mind.

Three¬† My eldest has spent the past two days in exam conditions in the school art room producing his final piece for his Art GCSE. From what I’ve seen of photos on his phone, it’s been worth the effort and absolute mess in his bedroom. He’s gone in today for the final school day of year 11. From Monday he’ll be on ‘study leave’ and only go in to school for his exams. It’s also the final day for year 13 before their A’levels and many high-jinks are planned. He customised his school shirt in great detail last night which was hilarious. As I took a photo of him before he left this morning, he fixed me with a hard stare ‚Äď ‘What are you going to do with that, Mum? Do not¬†put it anywhere…!!’, so respecting his wishes¬†I can’t show you. Suffice to say it’ll raise a few eyebrows among the teachers.

Four¬†¬†There was a fascinating programme on Radio 4 this week about E F Schumacher ‚Äď Is Small the Next Big? ‚Äď and his revolutionary ideas about economics. I’d not heard of him before and was blown away by how contemporary his ideas, which date from the 1970s, sound and how much his holistic philosophy¬†makes sense. His premise, that people matter and that everyone can affect change, is one that I wholeheartedly agree with and I’ve ordered his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ to find out more.

Five¬†¬†I’ve spent as much time as possible¬†in the garden ‚Äď it’s so hard to stay indoors when the sun is shining and you can practically hear the plants growing. I’ve tended my seedlings, planted borage, nasturtiums and Californian poppies, weeded, and dead-headed the tulips, which are now all over apart from a few¬†sultry, dark ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘Ballerinas’. I’ve been admiring tulips on other blogs and Instagram and have ¬†clocked so many that I’d love¬†to have here. Hopefully, all my¬†photos will help me to work out where the gaps are for planting more bulbs come the autumn.

Have a super-duper weekend. I¬†have a friend’s birthday party tonight, the¬†village Gardeners’ Association coffee morning tomorrow and the rest of the weekend at leisure¬†ūüôā


Five on Friday

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One¬†¬†We’ve had some gloriously sunny days but the late afternoons and evenings have been icy-cold¬†this week. Winter is¬†reminding us that it may¬†yet come back to bite us on the bum. I read a tip on Gillian’s blog for cleaning the glass windows in wood burners: screw-up some newspaper, wet it, dip it in ash from the fire, scrub the window and the soot comes away easily, give it the once-over with some¬†dry scrunched-up newspaper and Bob’s your uncle. It worked a treat.¬†The sight of¬†the first fire after cleaning was so clear, it looked as though there was no glass there at all. It feels¬†all the more toasty when you can clearly¬†see¬†the flames flickering around¬†the wood.

Two¬†¬†I’m off the starting block with the crochet. Woohoo. I’ve managed a little square and a little circle of double crochet, which was the source of much amusement (Look! It’s a hat for a guinea-pig!), and now I’m doing a little piece of half treble. I’ve discovered that it’s much easier if you can see what you’re doing, so wearing my reading glasses and sitting by the window¬†help enormously. Now I’m getting the hang of it I can see how it could become addictive. It’ll be a long while before I’m up to blanket-speed, though.

Three¬†¬†David’s 50th birthday present from me was a day on an advanced bread-baking course at the E5 Bakehouse¬†last Sunday. He had an absolutely brilliant time¬†and came home¬†even more fired-up about bread. I’d say he’s on the verge of being a bread evangelist. He will talk bread with anyone who’ll listen. I’m on the verge of being bored by bread (bludgeoned by baguette) but that would be¬†churlish when he’s turning out such scrumptious loaves for us to eat.

Four¬†¬†My brother and his family came to stay for a few days. I do so love spending time with them and seeing¬†our children together. There’s quite an age gap but my little niece and nephew¬†adore their big cousins and my three are lovely with them. My sister-in-law, who is an all-round super¬†creative person (web designer and photographer) has been helping me get my head around a website for my editorial work¬†and she’s very kindly taken some photos of me. I’m definitely not a natural in front of the camera and it’s a testament to her skill that there were a few decent ones¬†out of all the photos she took. She’s going to do some tweaking¬†before I use them.

Five¬†¬†Did I mention¬†the¬†bread?! ¬†ūüôā ¬†Back to the¬†Howard Jacobson quote at the end of my previous post. Uncertainty is my default state of mind these days. My 16-year-old sees pretty much everything¬†in black-and-white but the older I get, the more I see that the world is a big mush¬†of grey. The only thing I am certain about is¬†my love for my family, that the sea will be outside the window tomorrow morning and the dog will be pestering me¬†for her walk if she hasn’t been out by 10am.

Wishing you an excellent weekend. I shall be catching up with a mountain of laundry, ‘encouraging’ the children to do their half-term homework before Monday and hopefully getting out into the garden ‚Äď the greenhouse needs clearing¬†out and there are sweet peas to sow. Spring is in the air.

I’m joining in with Amy’s popular¬†Five on Friday¬†link-up which has been running for one year today, linking many bloggers from around the world.


Five on Friday

I’m on a roll this week, so I thought I’d join in with Amy’s¬†Friday post. ¬†It’s back to normal service after today¬†as it’s half term next week and I have¬†a job coming in (great timing).

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1. Yesterday, as I was pottering in the kitchen in the late afternoon, the light changed. I glanced up and noticed that the sea was glowing. And I mean really glowing. This photo doesn’t do it justice. It was breathtaking.

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2. There are occasional cliff falls around these parts. Another chunk fell off recently¬†(the nearest pile of white chalk at the cliff base in the top photo). The boulders of chalk are actually enormous when you see them on the beach. I didn’t go much closer to investigate! David was sitting in bed when the latest fall¬†happened and said he felt¬†it¬†shake.¬†Luckily, the¬†cliff falls¬†tend to happen at night, so it’s unlikely there would be anyone on the beach or wandering on the clifftop but it is a worry. I’m always slightly spooked and keep well away from the edge for several¬†weeks afterwards.

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3. I walked down to the beach this morning with a friend and our dogs. She has three dogs who love to swim but the tide was too far out for them today with too many slippery rocks to negotiate. When Cassie¬†came to live with us she was terrified of the beach¬†and¬†refused to even walk down the steps ‚ÄstDavid ended up carrying her down the first time. The poor thing shivered and shook all over until she realised it wasn’t that scary after all. Now she¬†loves running about on the beach but still avoids the water’s edge. She is definitely not a water-dog.


4. The snowdrops are still popping up in the lawn. There’s a lovely drift under the cherry tree. I was worried that David had chopped the tops off them too early last spring¬†(he’s a keen lawn-mower) but they don’t seem to have suffered at all.


5. A lovely friend gave me a gift voucher for a spa facial for my birthday back in August and I finally got round to it this morning. It was an absolute treat and I came out feeling all floaty and totally relaxed. I did a little shopping afterwards and found this perfect birthday card for my sister-in-law. Giddy. Such a brilliant word and quite a nice feeling!

Wishing you a lovely weekend.



Five on Friday


ONE¬† Our lovely hound¬†needs a decent walk every day. My children promised us¬†faithfully (of course they did) that they would walk a dog¬†if we got¬†one¬†but they rarely do. My husband walks/runs with her when he’s home but he’s often away. So it’s mostly down to me and, to be honest, I don’t mind at all. I usually love walking her. It gets me out into our beautiful surroundings for fresh air, exercise, inspiration and thinking time, and I often walk with friends so it’s doubly good.¬†I¬†go out in all weathers, even if it’s a howling gale and the sort of driving rain that stings your face. This week I have donned full waterproof gear and waded through vast puddles, pushed forwards¬†into the scarily¬†strong¬†winds, avoided going near to the cliff edge and been very pleased indeed to get home. So has the dog.

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TWO¬† Although it’s not been especially cold so far¬†this winter, I took advantage of the January sales and ordered a 13.5-tog winter duvet. It arrived yesterday and it’s SO COSY. It’s like sleeping under a massive, soft pillow. It’s now even harder to get out of bed in the mornings.

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THREE¬† I am fully conversant with nutrition and healthy eating. I have edited cookery¬†books extolling the virtues¬†of quinoa¬†and¬†kale, buckwheat and¬†beetroot. Despite¬†all this knowledge I still sometimes go through a whole day without eating any fresh fruit or veg (tut tut). I endeavour to get as much as possible into the¬†children¬†but I can be quite¬†lax when it comes to me.¬†This morning, in an effort to eat more healthily, I made myself a big bowl of porridge topped with with a banana, flaked almonds and sunflower seeds. I did then drizzle¬†maple syrup over the top but, hey, it’s a start. I make my porridge the traditional Scottish way ‚Äď with water and a pinch of salt ‚Äď which horrifies my husband. He makes his the namby pamby¬†way with milk.

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FOUR¬† My daughter’s recent biology homework was to make a labelled model of a cell. It turns out she knew she had to do this before the Christmas holidays but somehow we ended up doing it¬†at 9pm last night. She/we stuck two kitchen sponges together, held them in place with a cardboard ‘cell wall’, drew on the components and made labels with cardboard and cocktail sticks. Hey presto,¬†a definitely home-made, simple plant cell which was¬†Good Enough¬†for today’s deadline. Unfortunately, it’s still on the kitchen table…
We had a frantic text exchange and I sent¬†her a photo¬†to¬†show her teacher.¬†She’s a serial leaver-behind-of-important-things and I refuse to trek into school any more.


FIVE¬† I couldn’t drive it over to school, even if I was so inclined, because I went to visit¬†a friend¬†this morning. The last time I saw this friend¬†she was in full building-work chaos, coping with a temporary kitchen in her front room, making non-stop mugs of tea for the builders and keeping three children out of their way. But it was all totally worth it ‚Äď just look at that beautiful polished concrete floor and the way the sunlight streams through the windows. While I was there, the sun moved round and bathed the sofa in warm rays and it was very tempting to curl up in the sunshine and have a little sleep.

This is the first time I’ve joined¬†in with Amy and her Five on Friday posts. It’s nice¬†to link with other bloggers and a neat¬†way to present my series of random thoughts to you today. Have a great¬†weekend.