... you finally finish the jumper you've been knitting for yonks, it kind of resembles the picture on the pattern, it fits and you might actually wear it.
... you commit to giving up cakes and biscuits for Lent and twenty days in finds you still abstaining (though you're eating M&S dates by the boxful).
... the camellia springs to life in a corner of the garden.
...you meet a friend for a catch up over a delicious lunch at your favourite venue in town, you're still there four hours later and return home so late you have to treat the family to dinner at Pizza Express.
... your postman delivers book shaped parcels at regular intervals.
... your Boy mentions wild garlic season, you remember where it grows locally and you pick enough to make..... well, something delicious. Probably.
... you find your kitchen completely covered in a thick layer of, ugh, sugary stickiness after a boy's yumyum frying session and, even though it's really the very last thing you feel like doing on a Sunday night, you end up having to.... oops, sorry, wrong list.
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.
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.
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 .
Part of the problem with the garden here may well be the choice of completely unsuitable plants I attempt to grow. You'd think by now I'd have learned to do a bit of research and planning before buying, but no. This time every year I'm usually to be found in panic mode at the garden centre, madly filling the trolley with what looks pretty on the labels rather than more sensible choosing appropriate to challenging soil and light conditions.
We didn't have a garden when I was growing up. No one did. It was just streets and streets of terraced houses and shops, a designated slum clearance area (not that we knew that at the time) surrounded by heavy industry, and, apart from the schools' playing field, which was one helluva walk away from the primary school I attended and only used by each class a couple of times each year, not a blade of grass to be seen.
My dad did his best with terracotta pots of Turkish delightful rose and lemon scented geraniums on top of the frozen food freezer near the big glass window at the front of our shop (which was also our home) and that was about as much exposure to horticulture as I got. Not counting the snowdrops we attempted to grow in our class one time. I got to take home the bowl we'd planted (to be fair, there wasn't much competition to fight off) for the duration of the Christmas holiday. They didn't need much tending (unlike the class mouse my cousin got to look after the same school holiday) and they didn't grow. Not just over Christmas. They didn't grow at all. I can't speak for the mouse.
Every Sunday before evensong, Aunty M would take me on her weekly round of visits to some of her neighbours. The last call before we made our way across the market place to the church was to an elderly couple, the Ovies, who lived directly across the street from the house my gran and Aunty M lived in.
They were known universally by the shortened version of their surname, unlike certain others who had nicknames. Like Teacake Annie and Mucky Vera (who, it later transpired, was actually my dad's aunt on his mother's side). My gran and Mrs Ovie had fallen out and not spoken for quite some time. I never asked or discovered what it was about and clearly Aunty M didn't take sides or let it interfere with her Sunday schedule.
The best part about visiting the Ovies was being allowed to look in their back yard to see what was growing in the tubs (beer barrels, cut in half and painted to match the colour of their coal house door, or maybe just with whatever leftover paint was to hand) they'd planted.
Oh my word, there was no backyard like it. Not even my Aunty K, who worked as a cleaner at the Electricity Board in town and had a proper bathroom, had anything growing. In spring, the Ovies' tubs were bursting with gloriously yellow, easy to recognise, even by me, daffodils; in summer, well, I'm not sure what was grown, just 'flowers'. I remember I was so impressed, I drew a plan at some point (I used crayons and everything and I'm no artist) to bring some colour into our yard at the back of the shop.
Sadly, it was a plan that could never be implemented as our yard was much shorter and narrower than the Ovies', the sun never shone on it and it had to be kept clear of obstacles for the brewery deliveries (our shop was an off licence with a big red magnet sign hanging outside and no, my dad's name wasn't John Smith). Added to which our neighbour on one side had what seemed like hundreds of cats who used to congregate on our outhouse roof and who would no doubt have found their own use for containers full of soil. (Don't worry, I got over it and drew another plan for turning the outhouse where my parents stored sides of Danish bacon into a dance studio. Unsurprisingly, that was never implemented either.)
Since those days, and over rather a lot of years, I've had responsibility for three gardens, with a bit of help (not so much recently, he's obviously in his 'It's all yours' phase) from the mister with the heavy stuff. This current one is most definitely the worst, in every respect, though I'd be the first to admit there have been planting mistakes a-plenty in all three. Like the wisteria cutting someone gave us for massive garden number two that turned out to be a Russian vine with triffid-like tendencies and which, for some reason known only to herself, the then little Girlie used to approach sporting a quilted tea cosy on her head.
During an early doors supper with a friend last week, the conversation turned to growing stuff. This friend has a stunning garden, of which I am most envious, and, as usual, I bemoaned the state of ours. 'But why don't you fill the gaps with more of the plants that you know grow there?', asked my friend.
So that's what I'm concentrating on doing this year. Looking round, geraniums, foxgloves, geums and dicentras seem to survive so there'll be more of those in the places I can actually get a spade in, with an assortment of annuals (I'm really fancying some night scented stock) and maybe a tomato plant for the collection of pots.
Time, no doubt, will tell. In the meantime, I'll be keeping my not so green fingers crossed.
Last Sunday saw the start of Stage 3 of the Tour de Yorkshire race in our unusually spic and span town and, despite wet and gloomy weather, people and dogs turned out along the route to cheer the participants. There was such a good atmosphere as we waited (our local bobbies demonstrated their more humorous side) and eventually the helicopter heralding the arrival of the cyclists hovered overhead. Like Christmas, they were no sooner here than they were gone ( I was so busy faffing with the camera and making sure I didn't fall off the kerb I didn't actually see anything) and heading daleswards whilst we toddled off to see if we could spot ourselves on the telly and to eat pizzas.
The weather picked up during the week and the garden beckoned. The plot at the back of the house and garage is far from ideal; it's small, oddly shaped, faces the wrong direction and you could throw pots with the soil (that reminds me, I need a new mug or two). There are far too many gaps (plants just seem to give up the ghost here), there's a permanent covering of twigs (I blame the buddleia which just might be enjoying it's last season) and leaves (I have no idea what to blame for this; at the moment a photinia is shedding its red foliage). But, as there are no plans for relocating, we're stuck with it so I'll continue the dig, plant, wail cycle and keep hoping for a transformation. At least the Japanese cherry in the front garden is happy and currently displaying peak blooming gorgeousness before the snow globe effect as the blossoms fall.
We don't use our garage for the purpose it was designed. Oh no, we like to fill it (and it's a big space) with rubbish. Actually, it's not all trash. My mum's peg basket complete with dolly pegs is in there, as is the wooden sledge the mister made many years ago and which seemed to spark a lengthy period of snow free winters, along with Aunty's sewing machine and the vacuum cleaner she bought and then promptly forgot about. As we were taking the garden table and chairs to the recycling centre one day, we took the opportunity to completely fill the car boot, amidst mutterings of the what the hell is that and I'm not looking inside there variety, with stuff from the garage. I'd have to say it doesn't look any less cluttered but it's a start and every little helps, as they say.
Yesterday, the Boy and I took ourselves off to London for no other reason than it seemed a very good idea. There was no plan either other than lunch in Ottolenghi (which, as always, was delicious but just how did they know that I was the vegan?) and it was a case of walking here and there, wherever the fancy took us. Posh chocolates and several other treats may have been purchased en route because the proceeds from an unexpected cheque through the letterbox were demanding to be spent and, anyway, why not. Whilst we were doing all that capital city wandering, news came through of our local football team's (the mister is a lifelong supporter) promotion to the big boys league (yep, they're finally going up) so, of course, we paused to celebrate with champagne mojitos.
Inside the house, the cleaning inspection progressed. The standards expected were high. I think we passed.
Blue and yellow bikes of all sizes, along with colour coordinated banners and strings of bunting, have been popping up across the town in readiness for Stage 3 of this. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of cycling, doing it, driving round it or watching it, but the race is passing the end of our road and, well, large numbers of fit men in lycra might have some appeal.
The cherry blossom on the tree in the front garden finally put in an appearance.
Shortly followed by a bitterly cold wind and fall of snow. No wonder I'm dreaming of dumplings.
I visited our local university the other evening. There have been quite a few changes to the campus since I worked there, not least this new gold building, The Curve. In a town that has had more than its fair share of knock backs over the years, it's good to see signs of significant investment at long last. (We're also getting a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Who'da thought.)
The reason for the visit was to attend an event as part of World Book Night, with crime writer Helen Cadbury talking about her novels (I haven't read them but they're now on the list) and the process of writing and getting published. From what I could gather, there are no easy shortcuts to either. The evening ended with the library service dishing out free books and bags to everyone, both of which were most welcome.
The new addition to the book pile will have to wait a little while (and, of course, once I've read it I'll be passing it on) as a re-read, To Kill A Mockingbird, is currently on the go. This is an old favourite and oh, so very very good. And also the reason the dog here is called Boo (full moniker on high days and holidays only).
I'd be the first to admit I'm no crafter (and so in awe of my favourite bloggers who sew quilts, knit socks, produce their own soaps, crochet baskets, make dresses out of pillowcases for charity and bake gravity defying cakes). A lot of my forays into crafts of various sorts have resulted in me being (politely) asked to leave in the interests of safety or in some sad looking item being deposited in the bin and I can't even guess the number of times my crafting ventures have left me requiring first aid.
One of the items I brought from my late aunt's house was a little wooden stool. She'd had it for as long as I can remember, probably going back to the days she was still living at home with my gran. It was in a sad state, with a grey coloured mock fur glued to the seat, but a coat of white paint (yes, there are the trademark drips), some padding and a new cover has improved it a tad. It's now waiting for the littlest to perfect the art of sitting.
The renovation involved the purchase of an upholstery stapler. The Boy, who was roped in to help hold the fabric taut, demanded control of stapling just as I was getting into the swing, with accusations of highly dangerous practice and muttering something about fingers coming far too close to being stapled to wood. Honestly, some people. Sheesh.
A knitted cardigan proved slightly less challenging, although it took four attempts to knit the button band before the penny dropped that it was the pattern at fault rather than yours truly.
Finally, I've become a member of the Yellow Waterproof Jacket Owners club.