Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Little Things

Yesterday's post about the little things that got me through the weekend has set me to thinking - what if I did that everyday?  It would be a rather nice way to keep the old chin up and to keep a record of the smallest of things that have made a difference to me. Plus, it might cheer one of you up too, if you're having a bad day. Keep an eye out, over the next few weeks, for the simple things in my life that are cheering me on through. Today it was the blue sky and candyfloss clouds outside my window, classic Motown on the radio, Green & Blacks 70% Dark Chocolate and wearing one of my favourite dresses, even though nobody but me will see it. What are your simple pleasures? Did anything make you smile unexpectedly today? Answers on a blog-shaped postcard, please! x

Neighbourly Gardening and a Bonza Australian Send-Off

So, this week I am fighting tooth and nail against the fear that is gradually creeping up on me, in the approach to my big deadline. Butterflies don't cover it. Right now, it is all about finding small scraps of time and little, lovely moments to add a bit of colour and fun to each day. Here are the delightful things that got me through the weekend. Homemade lemon and spelt pancakes with yoghurt, honey and blueberries. Helping our elderly nextdoor neighbour to weed and replant her garden pots; petunias, geraniums, violas and heather. Tea and lemon drizzle cake in the sunshine. Baking an Australia-shaped pavlova for my friend, who is about to jet-off for nine weeks down under. Gobbling up the entire thing with teaspoon-wielding friends. Happy treacle. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Walls of Words

On Saturday night, I went to the The Lantern Theatre where a friend of mine was directing a version of 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead' - a  very funny play, which I would thoroughly recommend. The theatre itself is tiny. Inside, it almost felt like being inside a dolls' house, especially in the bathroom, where the walls were papered with pages and pages of old plays. The varying shades of aged white, cream and yellow looked so beautiful together and gave me a rather good little idea for making bunting. Now all I need is a few old books that I can bear to cut up. 
I'll let you know how I get on. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

A Casual Bit of Morris

The good things: Andy has done his exam (phew - six hours of exams in one day is horrid) and I finished my choir conducting for the year on a fantastic high; a wonderful concert of stunning music.

The slightly less good things: I am still super-busy with everything research-related. This weekend was the third-in-a-row that I have had to work in the lab and I still have six weeks to go. 

The nice things: Last weekend, the Ginge and I had an afternoon out on the town. We started with a glass of lovely English sparkling wine at The Milestone. Crisp, light, refreshing, decadent. It got us both very excited for our summer holiday in Sussex, where we will be able to visit lots of little vineyards to try a glass or two of lovely wine. We were passed, on our way out, by a Morris-dancer, who we decided to follow (at a suitable distance, obviously). They led us to what can only be described as a Morris convention. How wonderful. Quintessentially English. The jingly sound and beribboned colour of the country summer. We couldn't help but tap our feet and bob on the spot in time with the bells and left feeling refreshed by the injection of simple, traditional joy. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Outdoor Baking

I needed to bake a cake yesterday afternoon, but not just any cake; Sophie Dahl's flourless chocolate cake - a seriously tasty treat. Unfortunately, the recipe requires the use of a food processor; a rather loud piece of equipment, the use of which is less than appreciated by housemates who are sleeping before a night shift. The Ginge came up with the sterling idea of setting everything up outside. What a plan! I baked, whilst he read the paper and we both had a glass of cider and listened to some old tunes on our new, very pretty radio. It was so lovely to do everything in the fresh air - I felt like a TV cook. I obviously made sure that I had enough mixture left to lick the bowl, but the Ginge wasn't having any of it. Apparently, he doesn't like cake mixture. I think there is something very wrong there. 

Whisking egg whites by hand  is tiring work...

...but the rewards are scrumptious.
We devoured the cake and I am convinced it tasted better for having been baked outside.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Spot of Gardening and a Surprise for my Ginge

Well now, I was going to post this last night, but didn't quite get round to it, which is rather funny, given this morning's discovery. I am going to post it anyway, though as it is much happier than the more recent event. 

I have mentioned before that our yard needs quite a bit of attention. If I had a magic wand or lots of money, I would turn it into a lovely little back garden with a luscious green lawn (barely bigger than a stamp) with flowers and herbs and tomato plants growing in pots. I would turn the tumble-down outhouse into a gorgeous little shed and spend every sunny moment lapping it all up. Unfortunately, I have neither a magic wand, nor lots of money, but on Sunday I decided that I had to do something, so I trundled off to a little shop I know that sells lovely herbs and to a somewhat bigger one that sells compost, then spent the rest of the afternoon getting my hands very dirty indeed. The result was four beautiful pots of French lavender, a bay tree, a mix of herbs: rosemary, oregano and lemon thyme and a perfectly prim little box tree. The Ginge was at work all day, so it was a very charming little surprise for him to come home to (all in aid of celebrating him cleverly getting his new job), made all the  more delightful by some candles in jars and a barbeque picnic. I covered-up our hideous concrete floor with a lovely blanket and cushions and we had royal wedding 'Big Willy' sausages from our local butcher, with apple and rocket salad, new potatoes and a pot of Wiltshire cider and tomato chutney, not forgetting a bottle of actual cider for toasting purposes. It wasn't the warmest of evenings as it was quite windy, so we had to bundle ourselves up in woolly jumpers and erect a cunning windbreak around the tiny barbeque, but it was just what we both needed. It makes such a difference to open the door to something so beautiful and it is such a pleasure to see (and eat) the fruits of one's labours. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

An Assault on my Tastebuds

I have just had a rather odd gustatory experience. A friend of mine, who recently visited Japan, brought back an array of bizarrely flavoured KitKats for me; sweet potato, soy sauce, sweet tofu and wasabi. The soy sauce one was strangely pleasant, tasting a bit like maple syrup, but the others were, honestly, rather vile. I was just thinking what the English equivalents might be. Maybe baked beans or gravy or English mustard. 

Thinking of Changing my Name

Well, not my name. The name of my blog. I chose 'bushel and a peck' because the words remind me of a lovely time I spent with my family in New England and I do like it, but for a while now, I have been feeling like it doesn't really represent exactly what I want to say or who I am now. Sorry to go all philosophical on you, but it has been niggling at me. It's a bit like wanting a new haircut - it won't change who you are and it will barely change what you look like, but you know it will make you feel that little bit more confident; that little bit more you. I shall think more on this and will give you fair warning, if I am going to change anything. It's a difficult decision. I feel very much the same as I did when faced with this sign...

Any thoughts? 

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A Wiltshire Wedding

Last weekend, we celebrated the marriage of our wonderful friends; Sarah and Steve. A simple, country wedding, watched by a few generous handfuls of people; a joyful day, glowing with love. 
Photographs by my very talented sister, Eleanor. 

Hedgerows in Jam Jars, Fish and Chips in Parks

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I, along with my family, spent Good Friday preparing the beautiful West Barn in my beautiful home town, Bradford-on-Avon. We arrived at the barn, laden with bunch after bunch of stunning flowers, many picked from our garden and the surrounding hedgerows, even some little oak trees, grown by the Groom. By the time we had finished, the place was a bower of spring blooms; a cross between Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and and old English country garden. 
By six o'clock, we were rather tired and hungry, so we retreated to a picnic bench outside, with fish and chips (very fitting for Good Friday) and a selection of (very) local ales and ciders.  
I grew up playing here...
...just being there makes me feel so happy and alive. 
After dinner, we finished sorting out the barn - Andy couldn't resist posing with the Chaucerian wall hangings- before heading home for a well-earned rest.
Everything looked wonderful on the day. 
You never know, if all else fails, we could all go into the wedding-planning business. I would very happily spend all of my time doing such wonderful, creative things, surrounded by my awesome family!