Sunday, 23 August 2015

Subdued Mood

My aim for this blog is to share my experiences of living on the south coast of England and most of the time things are pretty good.  However, yesterday we witnessed a very tragic event at our local airshow when, just after lunchtime, a Hawker Hunter jet aircraft performed a loop turn which went horribly wrong and the plane hit the ground, plowing into a busy road in its path.  A ball of fire and thick black smoke appeared.  There was stunned silence everywhere as people couldn't believe what they had seen.  Some people lost their lives and the investigation is still ongoing as I write.  For the rest of the afternoon and today, the local skies remain quiet and people are still trying to take it all in.  

My thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, the injured, the emergency services involved and for all those affected by this incident.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Walking in the Ancient Woodland

Last Winter I read Kate Mosse's collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride and other Haunting Tales.  The author has lived in Brittany and the Languedoc regions of France but grew up in West Sussex and has used the geography and traditional tales of these areas to influence her story-telling.

One of her stories was inspired by Kingley Vale, an ancient woodland lying North of Chichester just below the South Downs.  The woodland is part of a National Nature Reserve and is the home of many ancient yew trees (said to be the oldest in Europe).  

We happened to visit on a particularly hot August day and the coolness of the woodland was a welcome break from the hot sun - if a little eerie at times ...

Yew tree bark - looking like an ordnance survey map

The ancient trees develop holes and hollowed out centres which make them difficult to age as there are no rings to count.  Some trees even had the appearance of faces - this one reminded us of Munch's famous painting, The Scream.

If those trees could talk, the stories they could tell ...

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The DIY Wedding - Confetti Bombs, Love Hearts and Silk Flowers

We celebrate our first wedding anniversary this week-end and by way of reflection, I thought I'd share a few pictures.

Ours was a small, family wedding with a registry office ceremony and then it was all aboard a 70 foot canal boat for a 6 hour trip of 3 hours in each direction - a moving restaurant with constantly changing scenery of the countryside and later, once the dining was over and the alcohol had started to kick in, the mood changed and it became more of a party boat.  

We wanted to keep things simple but fun.  It was difficult to think of wedding favours that would keep everyone happy, young and old, male and female.  In the end, we ran out of time but the last minute love heart bags (which also included mints) made good table decorations and went down well with most guests and fitted well with our blue and white slightly vintage, slightly Wedgwood theme.

I made bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids from silk flowers - we had a 200 mile journey the day before the wedding so it was so much easier to get the flowers sorted in advance - and we still have them a year later!

Again, to get around the issue of dealing with fresh flowers on the day (and dealing with a florist 200 miles away), the ladies wore "silk" rosettes in colours to match their outfits (these were multi-purpose, so could be worn on a dress, attached to a bag or even clipped into the hair).

The guys wore home-made buttonholes which co-ordinated with the stripes in the groom's jacket and reflected my love of working with beads and all things crafty

As a jewellery maker, I made my own wedding pieces, and included pearls from my late mother's favourite pearl necklace in my headband and bracelet.

We put "confetti bombs" on the tables for guests to throw and create photo opportunities when we reached the half way point of the trip and everyone got off the barge for a walk along the tow path.

One of the most amazing things of all though was the fantastic wedding cake that my very clever sister-in-law had created.  She's not a professional cake maker/decorator but has a wonderful natural talent when it comes to creating decorative cakes.  She took on board our requirements - blue and white with a touch of pink, spots (my dress) and stripes (grooms jacket), bunting (invitations and boat decor), lovebirds (invitations) and just a suggestion of flowers (forget-me-nots)

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bringing The Summer Garden Indoors

Maybe its because we have a south facing garden, well-draining soil and live on the south coast of England, but lavender seems to do really well here.  I like it because its a low maintenance plant and earns it's keep, the bees love it too. We have a mixture of both French and English lavender.

Its easy to dry the flowers and then use for all sorts of things - herbal bath salts, ironing spray, insect repellent, pot pourri, scented sugars, healing balms, body scrubs to name but a few.  I came across a recipe in a magazine for scented wax polish using dried lavender and decided to give it a go.

There's something very French, very Provence, about putting together the ingredients of lavender, lemons and honey (although in this case it was beeswax rather than honey!).

Scented Wax Polish

1.  Warm 250ml jojoba or apricot kernel oil, 15g of dried herbs and 2 strips of lemon zest in a small pan over a low heat until tiny bubbles appear at the edges. Remove from the heat and leave overnight.

2.  Strain the oil through a sieve lined with muslin into a heatproof bowl.  Place over a simmering pan of water and add 80g grated beeswax.  Warm, stirring, until melted.  Mix in 6 drops of lavender or lemon essential oil.

3.  Pour the polish into a tin or jar - if using glass, warm it for a few minutes in a low oven to avoid it cracking.

4.  Leave to set before using.

Unfortunately my version wasn't as scented as I'd hoped but this may be due to using wax pellets rather than grated wax. Probably the extra warmth needed to melt the wax didn't preserve the fragrance of the oil.  However, the polish still did a good job on the coffee table in the lounge.

I actually got 4 pots out of it and am now thinking of drying some of the rosemary that we have in the garden as I think this would make a nice autumn/winter version.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Meet Esmeralda the Baby Gull

The other morning we were woken up very early at 5.30am by the sound of something rattling around on the flat roof outside the bedroom.  Curious to see what it was, I looked out and saw a baby herring gull dragging around a half cocount shell with a piece of string tied onto it.

The neighbours next door are keen on feeding the birds and an empty coconut shell had somehow found its way on to our roof.  We'd noticed a fluffy little gull's head on our chimney top for a little while now so knew there was a youngster up there, and it has now fledged the nest.

We've decided it's a girl, for no other reason that she does look quite pretty (at the moment) and we thought as she'd probably be around for a while, we'd give her a name.  After a few random suggestions (Cleo, Josephine, Doris) we both said Esmeralda at the same time for some strange reason, and it suits her so that's now her name.  

Her territory involves lots of flat roofs and sheds, which is a good way for her to build her confidence and strengthen her wings.

We don't always see her in the day, but we know that she's back to roost at night and for the moment, she has taken over alarm clock duties as we are woken early to the pitter patter of flat feet and the coconut shell dragging on a rattly fibre glass roof, as the first thing she likes to do every morning is to play.