Sunday, 30 June 2013

A June Week-End

At last, just in the nick of time, we have the perfect June week-end.  The weather is warm and sunny, so its nice to open the windows and doors and let the house "breathe" in the fresh air.  The washing is on the line and actually drying, for a change.  

Sports fans are spoilt for choice this week-end with 3 events which epitomise June - the tennis at Wimbledon, the start of the Tour de France cycle race and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Everything in the garden is now starting to bloom so I gathered some flowers for the house.  

Unfortunately, the strawberries are not yet ready (just a few more days!) but there are some delicious local strawberries now available.  Earlier this year, I said I'd be switching from ice cream to frozen yogurt and I have stuck to my plan.  Fresh strawberries with frozen yogurt makes for a reasonably healthy dessert and tastes heavenly, especially on a hot day.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Seahorse Bracelet

Earlier this week I went swimming in the sea.  I didn't intend to go swimming but I was paddle-boarding at the time and the water was choppy and .... I fell in.

But I was surprised at how warm the water was and getting a ducking in the water was quite invigorating!

When I got home I felt inspired by the sea and made this Seahorse Bracelet.  It can be found in my online shop  along with a selection of other jewellery items

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Swing Your Pants On The Beach

Today was such a lovely summer's day and as we were both off work today, decided to get out and about to enjoy the weather and keep fit at the same time.

So it was out on the bikes and along to the new exercise equipment installed on the seafront about 5 miles away.

Its brilliant being able to exercise and gaze out to sea at the same time

A lot of the equipment has been designed so that 2 people can use it at the same time, so its very sociable.  My favourites are the ones we like to call the "swing your pants" machines ...

We then headed for the Sea Lane Cafe - the half way point of our bike ride

and not feeling the need for tea and cake today, I opted for a refreshing iced coffee instead

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Spicy Rhubarb Slice

This summer, some of the plants in the garden are growing very quickly (bamboo, mint, strawberries, raspberries and radishes) and others are on a bit of a go slow (courgettes, Inca berries and dwarf beans).  

Rhubarb is another slow grower, which means I haven't been able to make a rhubarb crumble yet this year.  However, yesterday my impatience got the better of me and I decided to pull out a couple of stalks and made them into a quick and easy dessert.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

2 sticks of rhubarb
1 - 2 teaspoons of brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it to be)
1 teaspoon of water
1/4 teaspoon of mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon of ginger (spice)
4 pieces of puff pastry (measuring approx 10cm x 6cm x 2cm when rolled out)
(note: I buy rolls of pre-made puff pastry from the chiller at the supermarket then slice into individual portion sizes, wrap in foil and then store in the freezer to use as required.  De-frost in the fridge the day before you plan to use it and this keeps it cool and makes it easy to roll out)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees C (200 degrees for a fan oven)
  2. Wash the rhubarb and slice into 1cm pieces.
  3. Place in a microwave proof bowl with the water, sugar and spices.
  4. Cover and microwave until softened (takes about 90 seconds, depending on the strength of your microwave).  This process can also be done on the hob using a saucepan
  5. Roll out pastry pieces into rectangle shapes and place on a pre-greased baking sheet
  6. Spread rhubarb plus juices into middle sections of pastries
  7. Cook on middle shelf in oven for approx 20 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tray

Best enjoyed served warm with pouring cream or ice-cream

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Down On The Beach

So, on this midsummer week-end, did we go for a bike ride?  No.  Did we go for a picnic? No.  Did we do some work in the garden? No.  Did we go for a walk on the Downs? No.

We didn't do any of these things because we have had non-stop (very) windy weather for 2 days and none of the above would have been easy in these conditions.

So, what can you do when the weather is this windy?  

Go kitesurfing of course (like Mr Cocopopia did)!

or stand on the beach and talk about kitesurfing

or just enjoy taking photos (like I did)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Summer Solstice

We are rapidly reaching the Summer Solstice (tomorrow) and Midsummer's Day and I feel that I'm still waiting for the summer to start properly.  But yesterday it actually was a hot and sultry summer's day and I spent the afternoon in the garden with the animals who were making the most of the good weather too.

Mr P found a cool place to retreat under the hedge

Juni found an area of dry soil in the shade to do some dust bathing

and so did Razzie

Sweetpea (who also likes to think of herself as a chicken from time to time) also chose to roll around in the dust

but she got bored with that so went to stretch out in the sun for a while.  

And then she got bored again, so went to play in Mr Cocopopia's workshop area among the statues

and got friendly with one of the Easter Island men

Friday, 14 June 2013

Giving The Garden a Boost

Grow fruit and veggies, grow!!!

Because of the cool spring (and only slightly warmer summer) everything in the garden is growing really slowly - apart from when it rains when things that you don't want to grow quickly (such as the grass and the bamboo) suddenly grow about 6 inches overnight!

I'm starting to get impatient and have come across a few tips which may help things along a little, using natural, eco-friendly resources to give nature a helping hand:-

  • Marigolds (all types) can be used as insect repellents when it comes to protecting more vulnerable plants from attack
  • Onion plants will repel aphids and carrot flies (but consider where you place them as some plants don't like them)
  • Garlic is good planted around raspberries and will repel aphids so good next to roses too
  • Most herbs will attract bees and wasps, which will help pollination of fruits and tomatoes
  • Basil grown next to tomatoes will improve their flavour
  • Tea or tea leaves can help maintain soil acidity
  • Use the water from rinsing out milk containers as a liquid feed for outside plants
  • Coffee grounds add nitrogen and acidity to the soil and can act as a deterrent to slugs and snails
  • Rusty nails in the watering can will add iron to the soil
  • Crushed egg shells added to the soil will add calcium and make slugs think twice about crossing over them
  • Banana skins dug in around roses add potassium

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Yarn Bombing

According to Wikipedia yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.

I came across a local example over the week-end in Worthing, on a quiet side street.  A small, neglected piece of land next to the road had been transformed with planting, grafitti, yarn bombing and a bench to sit down and enjoy.

Apparently this neglected patch of ground was given by the local council a few months ago to Storm Ministries, a registered charity and voluntary group working with children and young people.

knitted bird hanging in the tree

tree with woolly jumper

dangly knitted fruits

Colourful knitted flowers decorating the bench

Its a colourful, tranquil little haven in the centre of town and because it has been created with positive intent, fun and creativity, this energy can be felt as you wander around the little patch of garden or sit on the bench in contemplation.  Its in Union Place in Worthing so do check it out if you're ever in the area....

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Breezy Day Bike Ride

I like to get on my bike and go for a cycle at least once every week-end as its a great way to exercise and you notice a lot more of the world around you when either walking or on two wheels.  If I'm short on time, I'll pop into town and back.  Its only about a 15 mile round trip and mainly flat, but if its windy (and on the coast it often is) then there's a lot more effort involved.  Today it has been fairly windy, which means easy cycling in one direction and difficult cycling in another!

The great thing about when the weather is a little grey, windy or wet is that it puts a lot of people off from going out, but this is good news for me as it means there are less pedestrians and dog walkers to negotiate on the shared path along the seafront.

dingy masts peeping up from lower down on the beach

When I reached the sailing club, all of the sailors were huddled around on the beach debating whether to go out or not - it was obvious that today's conditions were suitable for experienced sailors only.

On my way back, I spotted a lady feeding a family of swans from the bottom of her garden on the edge of the lagoon

Travelling through the airport, the almost horizontal wind sock was being filled form the north east - just to remind me that my cycle home (towards the north east) was not going to be easy!

Sunday is usually a busy day at the airport with lots of pleasure flights and "week-end pilots" but today a lot of the planes remained grounded.

So, it took me longer to get home than planned, and the Catapultoes were sitting waiting with expressions of "where is everyone, where is our lunch?!"

Thursday, 6 June 2013

One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make

Since we've reached June, summer seems to have arrived with long sunny days at last.  It seems to be that this year, we have been constantly a month behind with the weather - in April we had March winds, in May we had April showers and now we're in June we're having sunny May days and suddenly all of the animal life has woken up and there's blossom and lush greenery everywhere.

This morning I spotted the first swallow of the summer, swooping around above the garden catching insects.  It must have recently arrived on the South coast from Southern Europe, or even Africa.  But where were all its friends?  I hope they arrive soon.

And today there was much activity and lots of tweeting in the bird nesting box.

My camera is just not fast enough to catch the action of the parent birds flying in and out.  Its now early June and the chicks have been in there for a while so I think they will fly from the nest any day now.....

Finally, the most exciting find of today was a trail of some hedgehog poop along the garden path!  Last year we had at least one hedgehog in our garden (referred to as Heggie!) and we have been looking out for him in the hope that he has survived the long, cold winter and unusually cold spring. A lot of hedgehogs didn't survive because they were having to hibernate for longer and so waking up weaker but unable to find food because their food sources were not yet available due to the cold temperatures.

We think his favourite sleeping place is tucked away at the bottom of the pampass grass (a very dry and sheltered spot) and although I've heard rustling it could have just been another animal such as a mouse or toad.  But now I've seen the hedgehog poop, I'm more confident that Heggie is still around and has survived the winter.  I'll be looking out for him now, camera at the ready.....

In the meantime, here's a cute hedgehog picture courtesy of The Telegraph

Monday, 3 June 2013

Garden Design - Alliums

When we moved into our home just over 12 years ago, the garden was very plain - long and narrow with 2 tall hedges down the sides and an old, delapidated shed at the bottom. There were not many plants, apart from a small apple tree stuck in the middle of the lawn, which sort of got in the way (and the apples didn't seem to be edible anyway).  

Some serious redesigning was called for. The idea of a "jungle" garden appealed to us - something that wasn't too neat and tidy, was easy to care for and that would provide interest from the introduction of bold, architectural plants (as long as they were tall and narrow such as Cornish palms and bamboo).  We would introduce a few florals here and there in shades of purple, blue and white to contrast against the various shades of green and to highlight certain areas.  As the garden was narrow with high sides, we wanted a lot of the planting to be narrow but tall to carry the eye upwards.  

Because of these requirements, the first flowers we introduced were alliums.  So that first autumn, I bought some allium bulbs and dotted them around the garden as an experiment to see where they would grow best - some in shady borders, some under trees, some in pots and some in open, sunny positions.  

Maybe it was to do with the type of allium I planted, but wherever I planted them they thrived and have come up year after year.  If I change my mind about where I want them, then I dig them up after flowering and move them somewhere else and they don't seem to mind that either!

The only thing they don't seem to like is snails and slugs - although snails and slugs like them!  But some years the snails and slugs eat the alliums and some years they don't - I have never worked out why this is but this happens to be a year when they have left them well alone so now we have beautiful purple pom-poms dotted around the garden.

The other thing I like about alliums besides their colour is their big and bold, structure.  Not unlike dandelion heads, but with alliums the seed heads stay intact for much longer.  They are beautiful to look at so are often used in flower arrangements but I like them as they are particularly inspirational from a design point of view

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Favourite Art and Crafts at the Brighton and Hove Festival

As promised, here are the highlights from our visit last week-end to the Artists' Open Houses at the Brighton and Hove Fringe Festival ...

Ocean Views

Gorgeous images from photographer Gill Copeland (who donates her profits to the Cross Cultural Solutions charity)

 Lawrence Latham upcycles classic old cameras into unique and quirky modern lighting

Spotted in Spring, Brighton Beach

time-lapse digital art images of Brighton from artist and photographer Kristan Akerman

sculptures and stone carvings from Howard Young

and last but certainly not least as this has got to be one of my favourites - The Holistic Art House

From the uplifting and colourful artwork of Claire Johnson

To the angelic sculptures of Ginger Gilmore

and also the beautiful and bold mosaics of Josephine Tyrell, the orb photography of Gill Orsman and the unique, delicate and holistic jewellery of Helen Morris Clarke.

This whole house had such a beautiful and spirtual vibe to it - I hope they exhibit again next year!