A random summer summary

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  • It’s the last day of August and the school holidays are almost over. Other parents of school-age children will recognise marking the passing years in school terms – we’ve had 13 years of them so far in this family and next school year will be our eldest’s final one. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was rushing to get him to school by 8.45am with a baby and a toddler in tow. My perception of time seems to concertina and bow at the moment; something to do with middle age and teenage children!
  • I’ve temporarily taken my foot off the pedal with my blog and Instagram. It felt right to spend less time online and looking at screens, especially as I’m trying to help my daughter step away from social media a little. She has been experiencing the downside of it – girls’ social interactions are complicated and can be subtly cruel; there have been tears. I am grateful that I’m around to listen to her, give hugs and be a sounding board.
  • My middle son loved his trip to Madrid. The whole experience, from travelling with a couple of friends and no adult, to eating proper tapas and paella and staying with his Spanish friend’s family, was hugely positive. They took him to the Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid (lucky thing) and he even enjoyed that!
  • We had a grown-up party at the weekend and incredibly the weather was amazing – warm and still, with a crescent moon in the sky – we were so lucky and it meant the party could be mostly outdoors (phew). There were fairy lights festooned about the place and tealights in jam jars along the garden walls, straw bales for people to sit on around a fire and dancing indoors. I’d made all the food the day before – beef tacos, Moroccan chicken and a squash and spinach curry – and we had fig tarts (with more of our neighbours figs!), mini scones and other delicious puddings from friends. A load of friends and family came along and we had a blast. It took a few days to recover.
  • In the run-up to the party, I’d written many lists to keep track of everything: who was coming, food, drink, seating, lighting, music, etc. As someone who is an inveterate list-maker, I loved listening to Jenny Eclair is Listless Today recently on Radio 4 about why women write so many lists, especially to-do lists. Did you hear it? I always feel more in control when I’ve written a list (even if I’m not actually) and even better when I cross things off.
  • My favourite flowers in the garden this summer have been the zinnias. They took a while to get into their stride with flowering but they’ve been loving the hot, dry weather and I’ve picked many handfuls of bright blooms. They last really well – at least a week – in a vase, too. There’s something about their shapes and colours that just cheers me up. I’ll definitely grow them again next year.
  • My jam pan is full of raspberries and sugar macerating ready to be boiled up into jam later. I’ve made several jars already but I’ll keep going while there’s fruit still coming. Opening a jar of fragrant homemade jam in the depths of winter, when it’s dark and miserable outside, will remind me of long summer days, the heat of the sun on my back as I pick fruit from the bushes, my fingers stained with raspberry juice.
  • It’s the Late Summer Show in the village hall on Saturday. I’m entering a cake (a ‘fruity banana bread’), ‘7 raspberries’ and maybe the ‘flower arrangement in a milk jug’, if I have time. The bread class is a sourdough loaf, so David’s entering that and my daughter is planning to make ‘5 meringues’. I’ll be helping to set it all up and put it all away at the end, then we’ll be cracking open a bottle left over from the party.

I hope you’re enjoying this last day of August and have a lovely weekend. Thank you for stopping by.

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A January stock-take

One of the best things about blogging is connecting to others throughout this wonderful world of ours – peeping through blog windows into the lives of people I probably wouldn’t ever meet in ‘real life’. One of my favourite windows is The Shady Baker‘s, where Jane writes about and photographs her life in the Australian outback so beautifully and evocatively. This stock-take is borrowed from her latest post (thank you, Jane); she in turn got the idea from Pip (where you can also copy the list if you wish). Taking stock in this way helps to gather my slightly chaotic thoughts into a vague sense of order, which feels altogether the right thing to do in early January.

Making: marmalade this weekend. David is bringing two boxes of Seville oranges home this evening. Making marmalade (and eating it) is one of my favourite things to do.
Cooking: anything that is quick and easy without being too unhealthy (it’s toad-in-the-hole tonight).
Drinking: too much coffee.
Reading: the Persephone catalogue and deciding which books to buy with a Christmas gift voucher. Decisions, decisions.
Trawling: through cupboards and drawers for a lost camera charger. Does anyone else spend far too much time looking for ‘lost’ things?
Wanting: everything to be organised and in the right place.
Looking: for signs of spring.
Deciding: to be more disciplined in my daily routine (yeah, right).
Wishing: I had a magic wand.
Enjoying: bright, cold, early-morning dog walks with friends.
Waiting: for all the daffodils and tulips I planted to peep out of the soil.
Liking: these cold, sunny winter days.
Wondering: if we’ll have snow this year. It snowed the very first winter we were here, in the winter of 2012/13, but there’s been none since.
Loving: the light and the shadows that the winter sun throws.
Pondering: planting ideas for the front terraces of the garden. Fruit trees, grasses, roses…
Listening: to the birds. I heard a lapwing ‘pee-wit’ today – I haven’t heard that sound for years. Three of them flew up from a field and wheeled about in the sky. Pure joy.
Considering: what to do for David’s birthday in a few weeks’ time.
Buying: my daughter a new winter coat in the sales to wear over her school blazer. She currently goes off to school with a scarf…
Watching: the ever-changing clouds and sea.  
Hoping: my daughter will actually wear her new winter coat.
Marvelling: at the excuses my children come up with.
Cringing: at the amount of card and paper recycling we put out this week from Christmas packaging and wrapping.
Needing: to spend more time away from the computer screen. My eyes would benefit, as would my brain.
Questioning: everything and making a conscious effort not to take things at face value.
Smelling: my dog. She needs a bath.
Wearing: layers and layers. I try not to put the heating on during the day, so I end up with jumpers upon jumpers.
Noticing: the lengthening of the days. I’m closing the curtains later than I was before Christmas.
Knowing: that I am fortunate and have a good life (and I am grateful).
Thinking: about the website I’m working on. All the time. I wake up thinking about it and I go to sleep thinking about it.
Admiring: my mother-in-law. She’s in her mid-70s and she has more get-up-and-go than most people I know.
Getting: to grips with mothering teenagers. It’s a constant learning curve.
Disliking: the lazy journalism that seems to abound these days and misuse of terms like ‘liberal elite’ and ‘establishment’.
Opening: a new packet of biscuits more often than is advisable.
Closing: the door to the cold utility room to try to keep the kitchen warm.
Feeling: hungry. I blame the festive over-eating.
Hearing: crying gulls outside and my spluttering coffee machine.
Celebrating: a few January birthdays. It’s hard to muster great enthusiasm after Christmas but it has to be done.
Pretending: to be a competent woman.
Embracing: 2017.

I hope you have a good weekend.

Five on Friday

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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 – with water and a pinch of salt – 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.

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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 – 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.