Summer!

I promise you I have not completely disappeared … I just took an unplanned break … doing some summer things …

… like sitting with my hubby drinking wine, chatting and enjoying the evening sun coming through our windows …

… witnessing glorious sunsets …

… eating lots of fresh asparagus (between you and me I think L might wake up one morning and find his wife has turned into a stalk of asparagus πŸ˜‰ ) …

… reading books on the Cathedral Green …

… attending the lovely wedding of lovely friends …

… and taking photos of fresh, juicy, bright red tomatoes! Not really a must-do summer activity, but come on, the colour has got to make you smile, right?! πŸ˜‰

What are you doing with your summer?

Perfect afternoon!

The last two days we have been enjoying the nicest weather we’ve had since about May – blue skies, fluffy clouds, just the right strength of sun, cool breeze … perfect!

So L and I took advantage of it this afternoon and went walking!

We walked down through town to The Quay.

You can hire canoes to go up the river, or bikes to take on the tow-path … or you can walk up the paths, like we did. But first we stopped at a little place called The Jolly Roger’s Tea Room to but some scrummy ice creams which we munched on as we walked! πŸ™‚ I had maple, pecan and fudge in a waffle cone – you should try it sometime, it’s yummy! πŸ˜›

The river is beautiful, especially in this weather and I love having a piece of countryside so close to town!

Doubles Locks is a locally famous pub which is very popular as a walking and cycling destination. We sat under the magnificent cedar trees outside and enjoyed a chilled pint of beer/cider – ah!

There were lots of people there, enjoying the sun, the space and the good food and drink – it was nice and cheerful!

We had some fun messing around for a bit before starting off on the walk home …

We were quite tired by then and had sore feet by the time we got home again, but it was so worth it!! I haven’t enjoyed a Saturday afternoon so much in too long, and I got to spend it all with my lovely hubby! πŸ˜€

Diamond Jubilee Tea Party!

This weekend people have been celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee all over England!

There have been massive celebrations and events over the last four days and we were given an extra bank holiday today, in addition to the normal June holiday yesterday.

I love the Queen and admire her very much and I have loved seeing the way communities have come together to celebrate our nations’ Queen 60th year of reigning as our monarch!

There have been concerts, parades, street parties, picnics, village lunches, commemorative services and gun salutes galore!

For my celebrations, I chose a wonderfully English Tea Party!

When organising things like this, I tend to leap in with a ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I get obsessed with the details, think about little tweaks and improvements even when I’m meant to be concentrating on something else, research the shops and web every couple of days, plan, plan and re-plan.

I started thinking about the tea party in March. The invitations were in the post by the middle of April.

Sadly, this didn’t stop me from becoming overcome by life and convincing myself I had two weeks preparation left … when I actually had just one … πŸ˜›

However, with the help of the wonderful man who is my husband, and the un-ending assistance of my dear friend K, who was staying that weekend, we made it to this point:

I went for a high tea theme of savouries as well as cakes.

I just had to have the traditional cucumber sandwiches and threw in a childhood favourite of Marmite and cress – yum! I was rather pleased with the mini quiches, which is something I’ve wanted to have a go at for a long time.

This wonderful cake stand – complete with coloured dots! – was a wedding present from my friend A and her husband. Doesn’t it look splendid all loaded up with sweet treats?! I was quite pleases with the sponge fancies I made – I decorated them with card-making decorations! πŸ˜‰

A made this scrummy chocolate cupcakes, which embraced the English Jubilee theme hook, line and sinker! Aren’t the decorations so cool?! I had a Big Ben!! πŸ˜€

One of my closest friends, R, baked scones and brought the essential clotted cream and jam to go with them. They were absolutely scrummy and the party would not have been complete without them!

I loved planning and setting up the details of napkins, tea cups and saucers, napkins, flowers, little decorations …

I snagged a beautiful vintage-style table-cloth from Ebay for a bargain price and dissected a wedding candle wreath to add some rose-like elegance to the setting.

All three of my sisters came, so plus my friends K, R, a and myself, we were a comfortable seven round our games-chest-come-coffee-table.

My final little thing was a favour bag, containing each girl’s favourite kind of chocolate – or as near to that as I could come! πŸ˜€

I’m so glad I threw my Jubilee Tea Party and hope that everyone who came had lots of fun!!

What did you English readers do to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee?!!

This evening

The last few days we have had beautiful weather! Blue skies, hot sun, light breeze! Lots of sun, but not too hot – just right! πŸ™‚

Right now the evening sun is pouring through my windows!

I love that our main kitchen/dining/living room faces west, and so catches lots of sunlight and golden shadows!

It even makes my crowded little tea shelf appear semi-attractive! πŸ˜‰

As those of you who have read my blog for long will know – I love taking photos of sunlight and shadow – even if that’s my dining room chair!! πŸ˜›

In this light my sun catcher comes into its own and looks beautiful!

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of my beautiful flowers in the sunlight! πŸ˜‰

Ok, so maybe I’m a little obsessed with this whole sun-and-shadow-photo-thing … !

While blogging and doing craft, I’m enjoying a big old bowl of fresh salad …

… and a little glass of white wine! Mmm πŸ™‚

What are you doing this evening?!

Surprise flowers!

I went out to get some wine and a pudding for date night.

I returned to find these sitting on my kitchen table!

Now what lovely man bought these for me?! πŸ˜‰

I’ve heard it said that men are not good at picking the right flowers or the right engagement rings …

My hubby just so happens to be a massive exception to that legend!

This flower L thought I would especially like!

Who couldn’t love this beauty?! I love the interweaving of the petals, the shape and the light and shadow contrasts! Despite not being a “pink girl” I actually think the colour of this flower is magnificent!

I do love taking photos of my flowers and experimenting with my camera!

Now that’s what I call a brilliant start to the weekend!! πŸ˜€

A little post about a big risotto

I’ve noticed it’s been too long since I posted about what I’ve been cooking. How did that happen?

Well don’t panic! Just in case you were missing my slightly steam-obscured photos and slap-together dishes, here’s a little treat for you! πŸ˜‰

I hack some butternut squash into manageable sized pieces and slipped them into the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper and mixed herbs. They took 20 minutes to get to a lovely sweet, soft, brown stage – ready just when I needed them.

I used red onion just because it’s what I had, but it does look pretty! πŸ™‚

I fried in olive oil, addedΒ  2 or 3 chopped garlic cloves and some cubed bacon – mmm, smelt yum!

After adding a reasonable-looking portion of risotto/arborio rice and frying until starting to turn translucent, I add a good splash of white wine (about a glass maybe?!?) and let that be absorbed before adding chicken stock.

By chicken stock I mean hot water from the kettle and a chicken stock cube crumbled into the pan … πŸ˜›

Oh, and yes, the picture is out of focus, but try taking a close-up photo with one hand, while trying to pour a limited amount of a bottle of wine into a hot pan, and you’ll see why … πŸ˜‰

I added chopped leek, asparagus and broccoli to the pan just after the first lot of stock, along with some frozen peas, salt and pepper and my choice ofΒ  dried herbs.

My most often used herb combo is about 1/2 tsp each of basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sometimes a bit of sage.

I add my stock in small, but regular quantities, as I fins this produces the consistency L and I like best – not too sloppy, but not at all dry – just to be very clear about it! πŸ˜‰

When the rice was just soft all the way through, I added grated cheddar, some powdered parmesan and the roasted squash from the oven. The cheese really does make a big difference (even without being biased, honest!), as it holds it altogether and adds a slightly richer, creamier quality to the risotto.

The finished risotto!

i reckeon it take about 30-40 minutes all preperation included.

Scrummy, though I say so myself! πŸ˜‰

And big – it ended up providing three meals in total! πŸ˜›

Bluebell woods

Last weekend L and I were visiting his parents.

We had a lovely, relaxed weekend being looked after, fed delicious food, poured tasty wine and getting to go for some glorious drives and walks through some beautiful English countryside!

Sounds like a pretty good weekend to me! πŸ™‚

On Sunday afternoon, when we had an unexpected burst of clear sky and sunshine, L, my Mum-in-law and myself went in search ofΒ  some bluebell woods …

… and we found them! So beautiful!!

After a few weeks of heavy rain, massive puddles on the pavements, grey views from the windows, wet socks after grocery shopping and that heavy feeling that comes with a constant half-light, it was so freeing to be out in the country, with blue, lightly cloudy skies, warm sunshine, fresh air, birds singing, grass and wildlife sounds all around.

Ahh …

A wood full of bluebells – for me, the photos say it all!

Contentment.