In a Vase on Monday: sunshine on a rainy day

It’s the last day of the school holidays here and my three are making the most of it, i.e. at midday one is still in bed and the other two are lying on sofas plugged into their devices. To be fair, it’s a dull old rainy day which makes everyone feel lethargic and not inclined to rush about doing all the last-minute back-to-school jobs, plus we’ve run out of breakfast cereal.

While there’s a lull in proceedings, I’ve picked flowers for a Monday vase (I’ve missed it these past few weeks) and set about photographing them with one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had – a Nikon camera! As well as a fantastic new DSLR to play with, my mum handed me this gorgeous jug yesterday – it was my grandmother’s and she thought I’d like it for flowers. Isn’t it lovely? It’s a little chipped and worn but it holds such happy memories of my dear grandma and I love it.

The contents of the jug are: zinnias, pink Japanese anemones, Verbena bonariensis, poppy seed heads, Miscanthus flowers, jasmine leaves, a spire of Heuchera flowers, dried lavender and a lovely copper-coloured osteospermum. It’s definitely a late-summer-blending-into-autumn collection of blooms. As usual, I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who is showcasing a gorgeous ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlia today.

The village show on Saturday went really well, especially for David. His sourdough loaf won the ‘best home produce’ cup AND the overall ‘best exhibit in the show’ (a large shiny) cup! My son and daughter shared the cash prize for ‘5 meringues’ (he won but they agreed beforehand to split it as they were the only two who entered…), our ‘7 raspberries’ came first and second and my little milk jug of flowers was highly commended (which means it didn’t come first, second or third but the judge thought it had some merit). I also entered these zinnias into the ‘5 flowers of any annual’ and they won 🙂 A happy outcome all round for our family.

You can just see my daughter’s fingers on the right holding up the paper backdrop for me!

Right, I’m off to the supermarket. Wishing you a thoroughly good week whatever you’re doing.

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Summer’s end

Yesterday
Rain is lashing against the windows as I sit here writing. Proper driving rain. Our little black cat appeared just now and jumped up onto my lap – soggy paws! She’s now settled onto ‘her’ chair in the kitchen. The black-and-white one is fast asleep curled up on the back of the settee in the lounge. For weeks now, they’ve been out all day snoozing in the long grass or gazing hopefully into the pond but today they’re back to their wet-weather habits of mostly snoozing indoors. It’s been so dry and sunny for weeks and weeks that I’d got used to seeing them only at mealtimes and I’d got used to leaving the doors and windows wide open, wandering into the garden in bare feet, perching on the front steps in the sunshine with my morning coffee… Reliable stretches of hot, dry weather are unusual in the UK and it was lovely while it lasted but the season has finally turned in east Kent. Autumn has arrived.

There’s been plenty of ‘family life’ going on here recently: we’ve had a birthday (middle son – 15); a sleepover in a tent outside (daughter and three friends – loud); I’ve had two school information meetings for different year groups on two consecutive evenings (hmm); and I’ve driven to and from the station so often lately for my brood that I’m thinking of getting one of those signs for the top of my car. You know, the one that says ‘taxi’.

Today
I was so wrung-out by parenting this week that I couldn’t wait for David, my comrade-in-arms, to get home. We met in a local school car park where our middle child was to be presented with his Bronze Certificate in a mass presentation of Duke of Edinburgh Awards. A quick hug and a dash through the rain to the hall where we sat for 2 hours watching the presentations, occasionally whispering to each other as we were treated to amazing piano-playing by a talented boy, a confident girl singing while playing her guitar and an Interesting Dance by two girls. I’m not sure any of the parents knew what to make of that. I rushed off afterwards to collect our daughter from her tap class and we rendezvoused back home for a late supper of omelette and chips and beer. What a week.

I’d love to think we had an empty weekend lined up but we have four teenagers arriving this afternoon for a belated birthday sleepover. We had planned kayaking, campfire and camping in the garden but I suspect it’ll be more like film-watching indoors, perhaps a bonfire in the garden if the rain stops, and sleeping indoors. We’ve been invited to a house-warming party up the road so we’ll hopefully put in an appearance for a couple of hours. What could possibly go wrong? Don’t answer that 🙂

It’s meant to be dry tomorrow and I’m planning to get out into the garden. A good dose of cutting back, pruning or digging usually restores my inner peace although I am now slightly worried about all the trees I’ve pruned over the years after reading an article in a newspaper cutting from my mum. German forester Peter Wohlleben says trees live in communities, some can warn each other of danger and react when hurt, almost as if they feel pain. If you think about it, this isn’t as bonkers as it may seem and now I’m fretting about the poor cherry tree that we chopped back last year. Will our descendants look back on our barbaric ways with trees? Bonsai-owners may be locked up!

Oh yes, village show news
My tea loaf came first! The lovely judge said it was one of the best she’d tasted. Good old Mary Berry (I used her recipe for Bara Brith). Middle son won the Junior Adult baking class with his cheese scones and David’s cottage loaf (which didn’t look like one) came third. My flowers came second out of two entries (ha) and our raspberries were disqualified – we’d failed to read the show tips which said that the calyx had to be attached. Oh well. The tea loaf triumph more than made up for that.

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Finally
Have you been listening to The Archers? At last – thank goodness!!! I hope we can get back to crop rotations and Bert’s courgettes for a while now; I’m an emotional wreck.

Wishing you a super-duper weekend.

Show offs

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If you visited our house over the past week you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a scene of blissful domesticity: home-grown produce on the kitchen table, the smell of freshly baked bread, sewing-basket balanced on top of a pile of uniform to be named… The last few days of the summer holidays have been full of running errands and all those last-minute chores before Back To School – that time in early September when parents across the land heave a collective sigh (of regret and/or relief).

My daughter had her first day at secondary school yesterday and my eldest son got up four hours earlier than he has for the previous six weeks to travel with her on the train so she knew where to go, even though he doesn't start back until Monday. Gosh, I did feel odd waving them off – love, pride, anxiety, happiness, sadness, excitement, wistfulness... The whole shebang.
My daughter had her first day at secondary school yesterday. In a complete fit of magnanimity, my eldest son got up four hours earlier than he has for the previous six weeks to travel with her on the train so she knew where to go, even though he doesn’t start back until Monday. Gosh, it did feel odd waving them off – huge love, pride, anxiety, happiness, sadness, excitement, wistfulness… The whole shebang. He was back an hour later and spent the remainder of the day ‘resting’; she had a very happy first day.

 

As well as the looming new school year, we’ve also been preparing a bumper family entry for the village gardeners’ association late summer show. My younger son entered ‘A loaf (any size/any flour)’ and has been taking every opportunity to learn from the master bread-maker in our house (my husband). Secrets have been passed from father to son and he duly baked the most magnificent bloomer yesterday evening. David entered a ‘White plaited loaf’ and was up until 3am (yes, 3am) this morning creating his masterpiece (we’d been out to see friends earlier in the evening and stayed late…).

My entries were much less labour-intensive: ‘1 Cucumber’, ‘9 Cherry Tomatoes (one variety)’, ‘Cut flowers mixed or individual outdoor varieties (1 vase)’; ‘Cut grasses and/or seed heads mixed/single variety (1 vase); and ‘5 stems of Annuals’, so I was out in the garden early this morning, battling cobwebs and gathering spiders on my pyjamas, to cut my produce. My daughter entered a photograph – ‘Insect Life’ – of an ant in a flower that she took on holiday a couple of years ago.

Our entries had to be at the village hall by 10am, then there was a four-hour wait to find out the results… We nipped back after lunch to see how we’d done.

My son's prize- (and, to his delight, cash-) winning, ginormous bloomer.
Ta-da! My son’s prize- (and, to his delight, cash-) winning, ginormous bloomer.
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David’s late-night creation also won first prize, as did the 9 cherry tomatoes (‘Sungold’) and 1 cucumber (a monster ‘Marketmore’). My mixed flowers and grasses/seedheads didn’t win but I am of the ‘pick and plonk’ school of arranging and there were some rather splendidly arranged vases. My ‘5 stems Annuals’ – Tithonia, of course – came second to some wonderful sunflowers, and my daughter’s photo came third. She’s looking forward to next year when she’ll be old enough to enter for the cash prize and give her brother a run for his money.

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