Enjoying a sticky treat (dark chocolate and quinoa, so practically a superfood) from the farmers market for an al fresco breakfast.
Cursing the (huge) source of all those leaves covering the garden and thinking maybe we should swap Boo for one of these.
Feeling smug at successfully growing Virginia stock from seed.
Wondering when the night scented stock sown at the same time will put in an appearance.
Realising certain aspects of my role here are now redundant after the boy baked his own birthday cake. Four layers of Madeira-like sponge with white chocolate ganache and waves of Belgian white chocolate curls. Nine eggs and half a dairy of butter. Next year he can buy his own birthday presents.
Continuing to leave the hair straighteners unplugged and resorting to intervention as humid conditions prevail.
Remembering the time my hair was always worn au naturel, and, with a picture of an eighteen year old self in my head, asking the mister if my currently wild locks reminded him of anyone from way back.
An avid reader of newspapers (when I was growing up my parents always had two delivered daily; my mother used to go straight to the horse racing pages), and a keen listener of news broadcasts and watcher of current affairs programmes, I try to be as well informed as I can be. But, with an overload of reporting on tragedy, turmoil, a titanic report and turbulence of one sort and another of late, it's become too much. You think that must surely be it. And then you learn it isn't. Just how many 'Breaking news' alerts can we take in a week? A day?
So, there's been an attempt at distraction here, focusing on all things pink and fluffy (metaphorically speaking), to try and soothe the nerves, to provide some respite from all the happenings.
Although time spent in the Garden of Perpetual Autumn usually dampens the spirit (a mature elaeagnus at the back of the pond has now decided to give up the ghost and is shedding its yellowed leaves by the shovelful, one of the rose bushes has failed to flower at all and a hydrangea has been demolished by I know not what), there are a few bright spots. The potted plants are (mostly) thriving, and there are splashes of colour here and there. I have no idea what the lone blue flower is and don't remember planting it (maybe I'm nurturing a weed) but, whatever it is, it's most welcome.
The Boy continues to hone his skills in the kitchen and the latest bake on the cooling trays was a batch of madeleines (some plain, some dusted with icing sugar, some dipped in a lemon glaze). As usual, I couldn't partake so I made vegan custard creams. And polished off the lot in one sitting on a particularly news heavy day.
There's been the annual open gardens weekend to raise funds for a local hospice. You can't beat a good nose round other people's gardens (though maybe a good nose along their bookshelves would win that particular contest). There was a wide variety of plots to visit, some teeny, some large, some seriously sloping, some with interesting neighbours, some with cake to keep the mister happy, lots to envy. Unfortunately, I took very few pictures, I was so distracted.
There's nothing like getting stuck into a cracking read to escape reality and the current book at bedtime is really hitting the spot. Substantial, at almost 1200 pages, it's written 'in the Dickensian style' (more Dickens than Dickens, as some have commented) with a late Regency setting. It's complex with a raft of characters, historical detail aplenty, twists, turns, adventure, conspiracy and mystery as the varying fortunes of young Johnnie Huffam and his mother are related. Highly recommended.
Then there's the Boo, always full of the joys of Spring and ever willing to distract with a game of ball or chase. But this week, not so much. He had to spend a day with the vet (possibly not his favourite person) and undergo some much needed, erm, cosmetic work. He returned home a tad groggy and feeling very sorry for himself. But, whoah, his gnashers are positively gleaming.
Of course, a picture by email of the always smiling littlest never fails to brighten the day.
My mother had few memories of her cousin, Thomas, who was so much older than her. But I clearly remember the framed photograph of the nephew she loved dearly my grandmother had hanging on the wall above the fireplace in her little terraced house.
Thomas was a remarkable young man. The son of a labourer in the steel works here, he shone at primary school and was awarded a scholarship to attend the local grammar school, the first in the family to to do so (I turned out to be the second), where he proved himself to be an excellent all-rounder, becoming head boy, achieving outstanding exam results and winning an award of £60 to study at Cambridge University.
After staying on at school for an extra year as a pupil-teacher, he went off to Pembroke College, Cambridge where he continued to excel academically and graduated with a First Class Honours degree in natural sciences.
A Captain in the 7th Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment, Thomas died at the head of his company, aged 23 years, on 10th July, 1916, near Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme.
Remembering also my dad's Uncle Harry, who was killed, similarly aged 23 years, in the same week during the same battle.
These two young men are my connection to the appalling events of July 1916.
To them, and to all the other brave souls who gave so much, my heartfelt thanks.
It was warm and sunny when we walked in the small but big enough and wild enough park just round the corner. A favourite haunt of before work and school dog walkers, it was remarkably quiet. But then it was early. For us.
Boo chased his ball and a pigeon or two before hiding in the long grass.
Swifts swooped spectacularly low across our path.
We picked up litter carelessly strewn next to the bin.
I resisted a go on the swings in the unusually empty play area.
We didn't talk much. Sometimes you don't need words.
Remembering my dear father in law who has passed away three months after his 100th birthday.
Shock, more shock, then disbelief, despair, distress, despondency.
All those words, along with several choice others not usually in my everyday vocabulary that I'm rather glad my mother can't hear me uttering, since that blackest of Fridays and as the unravelling began.
But maybe now it's time for us all to consider the positives.
June can be one very sunny month but, certainly here on the north east coast, the first half has been something of a chilly, dismal washout. Whilst it's no secret I'm a big fan of winter (ah, nothing like a slap in the face from a biting wind to wake you up), I can appreciate a bright warm day as much as the next person and have to say I do prefer my cold weather at the appropriate time of year.
It's been difficult to know what to cook and eat with such unseasonally low temperatures, though I've been making an effort to be more organised (a bit sick of the daily 'What on earth can I rustle up today?' quandary, to be honest) and, with the help of several recipe books and stickers, have menu planned for the whole month, which has also made food shopping (ordered online recently) so much easier (though I do tend to forget the everyday stuff, so annoying when there's no flour to make the fancy sauce).
Porridge has made a welcome return to the table (I've eaten a comforting breakfast for dinner a couple of times so far this month), topped with a summer berry mix, seeds and a squirt of rosehip syrup. Paul Hollywood's barm cakes (flattish bread rolls, more commonly called fadges or fadgies in these parts) were baked and proved to be perfect (not too thick, not too crusty) as bean burger buns. We don't often eat puddings as such but the Boy produced another batch of cupcakes (ganache filling, peanut butter frosting with a peanut butter crumb and chocolate chips to finish, so I'm told) which seemed to satisfyingly scratch the need.something.sweet.now. itch.
The garden, that bane of my life, is looking bedraggled though the new additions appear to be surviving. I managed to plant some of the pots with annuals on one rain-free afternoon after a trip to a garden centre or three. But the little summerhouse is still awaiting it's annual sprucing with a coat of paint and we've yet to use the new Ikea garden table and chairs (though the cats are usually to be found sheltering underneath so not a complete waste of space). The peonies are almost in flower whilst the buds on the roses are a long way from bursting into bloom. At least the bird bath hasn't required much, if any, topping up.
There was pond related drama one morning as we noticed the water level had significantly reduced overnight, exposing the plant shelving and alarming the fish. Fortunately, it was easily sorted (not by me and something to do with the float valve, whatever that is) though one of the smaller fish didn't survive the ordeal.
We've been keeping an eye on the residents of the community pond and, unlike previous broods, all six of this year's ducklings appear to be thriving and are now almost as big as their parents.
Throwing the meal plan into disarray (do I just scratch out the recipe for that day or do I move it on to the next?), we decided one night to try a new-to-us Indian restaurant in town. The food was so delicious and someone just couldn't contain their delight when the dosas appeared.
... chocolate overload. A vegan treat from the excellent new cupcakery in town.
... stumbling across a (far from shy, far too busy eating) hedgehog during an evening walk round the neighbourhood with Boo.
... a new book at bedtime from the charity shop. This is the second outing for Galbraith's/Rowling's private detective, Cormoran Strike. An enjoyable and easy read, if a tad long winded.
... handing over the baking baton (should that be rolling pin?). The Boy is really getting into the swing, what with forays into fancy loaves, brioches, croissants, lemon chiffon creations and the like. The latest was a batch of jammie dodger cupcakes. Raspberry jam in the middle and on top, with a final flourish of butter biscuit crumbs. Definitely not vegan.
... a big bowl of green with a bit of red. To counteract all the chocolate. Broccoli tabbouleh topped with goji berries, walnuts, seeds, mint and a squirt of lime. Just a bit of chopping, no cooking and one of my favourites. Unfortunately, the other two here much prefer dinner to be en croute.
... a whiff of hawthorn blossom. I know it's one of the Marmite scents of the natural world, and some people cannot bear its pong, but I just can't stop sniffing it.
... seeing a chap in braces. Seems the littlest made an extra effort for a posh lunch date with his parents. Just nine months old and already eating Michelin starred food. Clearly, the bar has been raised. Now please excuse me whilst I go hone my croquembouche making skills.
The local pond is on the dog walk route. It's a small pool of often murky water, home to a community of frogs (we've performed a number of rescues when they've strayed onto the cycle path), a moorhen or two and lately five drakes. Duck families haven't fared too well here over the last few years (a combination of dry conditions and naughty boys) so we were pleasantly surprised one evening when these youngsters, six in total, and their mother suddenly came into view.
After a quick scan of the fridge and larder one afternoon, an unplanned visit to the supermarket was on the cards if dinner was to be something other than brown rice with tinned tomatoes. All went well (I made a list, remembered to take it with me and even checked it over before unloading the trolley at the checkout) until halfway home, when my little car unexpectedly ground to a halt in the middle of a dual carriageway. I managed to restart it (well, eventually, and with an impressive queue behind) and somehow made it home (I don't use a mobile phone so there wasn't much chance of summoning help), with little in the way of acceleration, an alarmingly loud grinding noise and a warning light flashing on the dashboard.
The garage was fully booked for repairs so the car has been sitting on the drive for a week, awaiting its diagnosis which is scheduled for tomorrow, and I've been hoofing it here, there and everywhere. (It took me an hour and a half to buy a bag of coffee beans yesterday. Walking back from the shop, an elderly man on a mobility scooter challenged me to race him. He won.)
But doesn't your mister also have a car, I hear you ask. Well, yes, he does. Or at least he did until he spectacularly crashed it the day after mine took sick (fortunately no casualties apart from the poor car). Didn't see that one coming. Clearly, neither did the mister.
Contrary to predictions, the latest additions to the garden borders are settling in well, especially given the poor soil, Boo's clumsy clown feet and a cat with a penchant for rolling (the other cat is too preoccupied waging territory war with the new feline on the block). Some of the plants are already flowering, providing some welcome splashes of colour amongst all the brown.
There's a small but decent monthly farmers market in the big park down the road which on Sunday expanded into a food festival. In the spirit of 'if you don't support it, it'll probably vanish', we decided to have a nosey. Along with the world and his wife. We arrived at midday and the place was unusually heaving. Many stalls had already sold out, with just a scattering of crumbs hinting at baked delights missed. At least it was an opportunity for a spot of people and dog watching.
The littlest paid a visit at the weekend, lured, no doubt, by the promise of festival food (he might be just nine months old but that boy can pack away a surprising amount of food). There was the predictable poking about under the rug but all the standing up took us somewhat unawares .