August-in-a-blog-post …

… or something that attempts to sum up what’s happened in my month!

My August got overtaken with illness. Yup, it’s me that’s ill. It’s a long-term thing – been around for too long and not going away anytime in the near future. Some days are better than others and August has been a collection of mostly bad days. Life has been a struggle and finding the energy for the every-day essentials has been flakey, so my blog has sort of slipped …

I wanted to tell you because my blog and the blogging community I’ve found online has become very important to me. I love sharing my photos and life with whoever is reading these pages and getting to “meet” some of you fellow-bloggers and share my passions with you has been an amazing experience! Even though I have not been commenting on your blogs, I’ve been keeping in touch with what is going on in your lives, praying for you when you’ve had tough times and loving all the photos, recipes and fun! So I guess it’s my turn to ask for the prayers and/or thoughts. Not something that comes easily to me, but even though I don’t post as regularly as I want to, I’m not giving up!

Here are a few other things that happened in August …

I cooked a fish meal for the first time! I baked salmon in foil parcels with a sauce of chilli, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and oyster sauce, and lots of spring onion, red pepper and fresh coriander (cilantro). I served it with rice and green vegetables and it seemed to be a success! πŸ™‚

One of L’s cousins got married in a country manor house in Shropshire! The staircase used for the bride’s entrance was amazing! They handed out homemade dried-rose confetti and had a beautifully done afternoon tea for the first part of the reception! The couple was obviously happy, despite it pouring with rain most of the day and the bride’s vintage-style lace dress was pretty. There were some photos of L and I taken, but my father-in-law still has these! πŸ˜‰

My youngest sister had her 21st birthday!! Eeeek! Makes me feel old … πŸ˜‰ I had a lot of fun planning and creating a special gift for her. T has quite a number of pen-friends and writing letters and keeping in touch with them is important to her. I found a Jane Austen-style writing desk which I painted with her favourite flower – daisys! I also covered a box with old stamps from around the world (I love Ebay! πŸ˜› ) and filled it with notepaper and cards. My other two sisters had informed me that T was very set on having cards with 21 on them … so the card, some of the wrapping paper and a key-ring made sure she wouldn’t forget how old she was turning!! πŸ˜‰ My sisters and I have had this tradition of giving each other number badges for big birthdays and this year I got to buy the badge – I’ve been assured it will be pinned on her bag for a while! πŸ™‚

Just this past week we had some good friends of ours round for supper. E and S got married just 7 months after L and I did and L and E had lived in the same houses for 6 years and have been in a prayer-triplet together with another guy for nearly as long … so yeah, they go way back. They have had us round for dinner twice and we really wanted to have them round to our house – once we could find a date that worked for both couples, that is! πŸ˜‰

I kind of went a bit over-board on the cooking front … not at all common forΒ  me πŸ˜‰ I like to cook something which is ready ahead of time and just needs putting in the oven, so I baked Chicken, Leek and Cider Pie. It comes from this amazing pie recipe book that my sisters gave me for my birthday last year. I decided to replace the whole chicken and homemade stock with chicken pieces and chicken stock cubes and made a classic mistake – the recipe called for a chicken weighing 1.5kg so, of course, I bought 1.5kg of thigh fillets … let’s just say that not counting in the weight difference for a whole chicken made a massive quantity of filling! πŸ˜‰

Apart from that little slip-up, everyone seemed to enjoy the individual pies, sweet potato wedges and vegetables. For pudding we had lemon-curd biscuits, fresh fruit and homemade ice-cream. I’d been wanting to have a go at making my own ice-cream in ages and I found this recipe that just need me to whip up condensed milk, double cream and vanilla, then put it in the freezer and forget about it … until pudding time! πŸ™‚ So simple!

A few weeks ago L surprised me with this gorgeous bouquet of flowers – he knows how to make me smile! πŸ˜€

I hope to be writing again soon!

What has happened in your August?

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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?!!

October BBQ!!!

Today the temperature in my city reached 24C/75F.

Today the date on my calendar read 3rd October.

What happened to the weather?!?

I read this on the BBC weather news website:

“The record has been broken for the highest temperature (UK) recorded in October – now at 29.9C (85.8F). It was set at 14:42 BST in Gravesend, Kent, beating the previous record of 29.4C (84.9F) recorded on 1 October 1985, in March, Cambridgeshire.”

October in England is cloudy .. lots of rain … high winds … thunder storms … chilly evenings … the first of that year’s cuddling up with a blanket … the return of slipping into cosy hoodies …

This October in England is blue skies … not a drop of rain … warm breezes that just stir my hair … hot night with the bedroom window thrown wide open … evenings where I have to tie my hair up while cooking dinner, to stop it sticking to my neck … not being able to cuddle L for more than a few minutes of a film, or we just get too hot! … pulling back out of the wardrobe the cropped trousers I’d thought I wouldn’t need until 2012’s summer …

Yesterday afternoon we went to a friend’s BBQ … on the 2nd of October!!! Hello, but when was the last time you wanted to spend the whole afternoon sitting in your back garden cooking, talking and eating with your friends?!? Um … not unless I wanted to get wet, cold and thoroughly miserable!! πŸ˜‰

The Cathedral Green has turned back into the city’s beach and England’s beach are once more full of sunbathers …

Not … please note not! … that I’m complaining! πŸ˜‰ It did feel like summer, sun and warmth came and went again very quickly this year, so who am I to grumble at an extra week of summer … even if it is in October!! πŸ˜›

What is the most unusual heat wave you’ve experienced?!

Ten beautiful things

Yesterday I was having a very sad day – I’ll imagine various sympathetic expressions!! πŸ˜‰ When I decided I was going for a long walk, my usual answer, L gave me a task … he challenged me to take ten photos of beautiful things and then I’d have to show him the proof when I got back … what?! How was I meant to find anything beautiful, let alone ten, in that mood?!!

My hubby knows me well! I found ten beautiful things to take a photo of … in fact, I ended up finding more than tenΒ  … what a surprise for this camera-loving girl, right?! πŸ˜‰

How could I have avoided this first one, sitting, as these flowers were, right in my path outside the green grocers round the corner?!

Laugh if you like, but I just had to include this in my beautiful-things-line-up!! I think that the sight of rows and rows of books is a truly beautiful sight!!! Is that very sad of me?! πŸ˜›

This used book stall, which is much bigger than this picture suggests, is set up nearly every day of the week on the street just 2 minutes from my front door … let’s just say that the friendly man who runs it recognizes my face and is always glad to see me back … !!! πŸ˜‰

What could be more beautiful than a tree dripping with red dots?!? πŸ˜›

There’s something so beautiful and graceful about trees and their spreading branches!

These leaves looked almost like scattered petals on the grass where I found them!

I love reflections! Beautiful!! πŸ™‚

This is one of the first of many, many photos of autumn-coloured leaves that you will definitely be seeing over the next three or so months … I love autumn, I love autumn colours and guess what?! I love taking photos!! πŸ˜› Bet you couldn’t have guessed that one!! πŸ˜‰

This one speaks for its self really, doesn’t it?!

Have I ever mentioned the words predictable, compulsive or adictive in connection with myself, trees, the sun and my camera?!! πŸ˜‰

The wind was gusting these willow branches around, the sun casting beautiful shadows and patterns!! A moment of perfection!

I took this photo late last night, when after a day of sun, muggy heat and gathering black clouds, it poured down with rain. I caught the rain in the light of the street lamp outside my living room window … I love the beautiful, glowing golden-orange light!

What are three beautiful things that you’ve seen so far this weekend?

An August wedding – the church and the bride!

L and I were away last weekend, attending the beautiful wedding of some lovely friends!

(I didn’t take this first photo, as I didn’t get a chance to aim my lens at the spire!)

This was the gorgeous, old church in Oxfordshire, where our friends, S and C, got married yesterday. In England the wedding is traditionally held in the bride’s hometown – the one where her parents still live. It is becoming pretty common now for the wedding to be held where the bride and/or groom now live (like with my own wedding!). This church is the one the bride, C, attended growing up, which is roughly three or so hours away from where we all live. We travelled up in the morning with other friends going to the wedding and arrived in grey, drizzly weather … uh oh!

It is built in a nearly square shape, with the altar (this is a High Anglican/Episcopalian church) in the centre of the church, the High Altar to one side and pews (bench seats) on the other three sides, all facing towards the middle. It was amazing!! There were beautiful arches, colourful stained glass, cool stone pillars, dark wood and a majestic organ! Breathtaking! πŸ™‚

This chandelier hung from the arched ceiling, lined with wooden beams and you can just see, in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture, the rather more modern looking chandelier which provides lighting today … I tend to like a more modern style (or is that colour-and-fun style?!? πŸ˜› ) myself, but when it comes to old buildings, and especially old churches, I think I lean towards the more traditional, older styles …

The flower arrangements were beautiful! The colour theme was yellow, which might sound strange at first, but this was a wonderfully soft golden primrose type shade of yellow and worked so perfectly … it epitomised summer!! πŸ™‚

The four of us filled up a pew (poor E had chipped/fractured/broken (I can’t remember which … oops!! πŸ˜› ) his collar-bone in a cycling accident, hence the sling on his right arm … ), which was nice and cosy and it’s the closest I’ve ever been to the front of a church during a wedding (except for at my own wedding – duh!! πŸ˜› ) and … as I was at the end of the bench, I was right next to the aisle the bride walked down!! πŸ˜‰

We (the guests, not the professional photographers!) were asked not to take photos during the service, as S and C wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the service first-hand, not just through the back of a camera … a very lovely consideration, not just of their guests, but of the importance of the step they were making.

Just as the vicar was saying a blessing over the new Mr and Mrs R, the sun came out – perfection, no?! πŸ˜‰

Isn’t C’s dress gorgeous and the bridesmaids’ dresses perfect?!? Of course, you have to say that about the bride’s dress … !! πŸ˜‰

Not the happy couple, but L and I were one of the happy couples that day!! πŸ˜›

I’ve realised that by the time Christmas comes around, I will have attended eight weddings this year … that’s right! You did read that correctly – eight weddings!! Lot’s of happy people! πŸ˜€

Have you gone to a wedding yet this summer?!