Friday, 27 May 2016

A Bloomsbury adventure

Both of us are keen on 20th century writing, art and culture.  Most of the art we love and a good proportion of the books we read are pre 1950.  In reading about the culture of the times, you do notice a number of connections between people; none more so than the so called Bloomsbury set.  Recently we've both been reading a lot about them and I've been struggling through Mrs Dalloway very slowly.  Last week however we had a little Bloomsbury adventure and had a week away to Kent and East Sussex to follow in their footsteps.  I thought I'd share some pictures of our adventure

Knole, Kent.  The seat of the Sackville family and where Vita Sackville West grew up
Sissinghurst, Kent.  The garden created by Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson


Monks House, Rodmell, East Sussex.  The home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf
Painting of Virginia Woolf by her sister Vanessa Bell

Virginia Woolf's bedroom
Virginia Woolf's writing room
St Michael and All Angels, Berwick, Mural by Duncan Grant

Berwick murals
Charleston Farmhouse near Firle, the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

At Charleston

At Charleston

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A magical alchemy

This post is really a boast, although not about me.  Mr C is a clever kind of person who can turn his hand to anything.  He was already a very practical person and an excellent cook when I met him.  However he has learned so many new things since we moved here to Hazel Cottage, he has made cheese, sloe gin and at least three different types of wine (parsnip, sloe and cherry plum).  

His main creations however are breads.   I just wanted to share some photos of the marvellous things he has made.
Cottage loaf

Hot Cross Buns


Rye Bread

And to go with all that bread, here is the cheese he made last year.  It was very tasty, especially washed down with the parsnip wine he made the year before!

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.
M.F.K. Fisher

Sunday, 3 April 2016

O soul of the spring-time

After what feels like months waiting for spring to appear, not only has it begun, but each day the sun is brighter and the buds on the trees and bushes are growing by the second.  The birds are singing loudly and even the odd day of cold and rain, the march of spring continues on!
A sunny day in the garden
Luckily even though it is early April, some afternoons still need a fire to be lit and a blanket to keep cosy under.
I even had time to do some sewing, although I don't quite know what I will do with it yet, it may end up on the patchwork quilt.  For some reason the lovely dark green looks brown in this photo.

Here are some of the buds in the garden, I will take some pictures when the bluebells are out properly as well.  I love this time of year!

Revive with the warmth and the brightness again,
And in blooming of flower and budding of tree
The symbols and types of our destiny see;
The life of the spring-time, the life of the whole,
And, as sun to the sleeping earth, love to the soul!        
John Greenleaf Whittier

Monday, 7 March 2016

The sun is brilliant in the sky

"The sun is brilliant in the sky but its warmth does not reach my face.
The breeze stirs the trees but leaves my hair unmoved.
The cooling rain will feed the grass but will not slake my thirst.
It is all inches away but further from me than my dreams."
-  M. Romeo LaFlamme, The First of March

I was going to call this post 'Four Seasons in one day' as last Friday was a typical changeable March day.  The morning started bright and sunny and breezy with an intensely clear and blue sky.  Then the snow started, which turned into hail, then sleet.  Then the sun appeared, then the rain started.  The problem with calling my post that is that I only have pictures of how beautiful and sunny and clear it was first thing!  

March was always seen as the new year rather than January and you can see why.  Even though the weather is still cold, the days are longer and the sun is brighter and warmer.  The daffodils are coming out, and the smallest of buds are appearing on the bushes and trees.

Early flowering shrubs like Forsythia are starting to bloom and the catkins are forming on the hazel trees.

The birds are starting to make a lot more noise too.  The blackbirds who fed companionably together on the lawn all winter are now competing for food and space.  The woodpigeons always squabbled and argued with each other of course!

We haven't reached spring of course, but winter is starting to come to an end.  By the end of March we will have a number of flowers in the garden and everything slowly starts to green.

The cherry plum is already flowering.  I hope we get more fruit this year.

The beautiful hellebore glowing in the sunshine.  There isn't much else flowering yet in our garden.

"March is a month of considerable frustration -
it is so near spring and yet across a great deal of the country
the weather is still so violent and changeable
that outdoor activity in our yards seems light years away."
-  Thalassa Cruso 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Space to spread my mind out in

Hazel Cottage isn't a large house by any stretch of the imagination.  However we do have a spare room where a couple of years ago we added a plain sturdy table in front of the window so I can have a space to create.  My sewing machine sits there and my paint brushes and pencils share pot space with sewing scissors and pinking shears.  Nearby are paints and a basket filled with bits of material for future project.  Sat on the desk too is Hopeful Bear, an old bear I bought a few years back from Fading Grace.

I love the fact that I have somewhere to paint, sew and write.  Somewhere Virginia Woolf called 'Space to spread my mind out in'.  Any projects I'm in the middle of can sit on the table and are safe until I come back. 

Sometimes I just like sitting at my table and look out the window which overlooks the back garden and watch the birds in the trees.  Even when I don't have time to do anything creative, I like to come and stand in the room and I just feel calmer. 

'I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up
in a little world of one's own,
with pictures and music and everything beautiful'
Virginia Woolf

Monday, 8 February 2016

Muffins and hearts

Some weekends are just 'making' weekends.  Mr C was out on Saturday morning and I had a quiet morning listening to Radio 4 and making banana and chocolate chip muffins.  There is something so wonderful and British and precious about Radio 4.     You could be listening to a play or learning about culture or a very silly comedy.

As I made the muffins  I listened to the Reverend Richard Coles and friends on Saturday Live.  It almost felt as if it could be any time in the last 50 years or so!

Our mixing bowl is an old Mason Cash one we had found in a charity shop a few years back.

The muffins were quite nice in the end, I wasn't sure the banana I used was mushy enough though. 

On Sunday we cooked a wonderful recipe of stuffed lambs hearts.  It was a bit fiddly as you have to make the stuffing (onions, sausage meat, mushrooms, parsley garlic), then a sauce made with tinned tomatoes, red wine, flour and butter, then stuff the hearts, wrap them in bacon and tie them up with string, then cook for about two hours.  It was worth it though, they were lovely! 

Offal never looks pretty, but it makes up for this with the wonderful flavour.  I do find that these days a lot of people are very squeamish about using heart, liver or kidney, many people are even flummoxed by any meat on the bone that isn't vacuum packed and bloodless!  I do think they are missing out though.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue

My blog today was inspired by two entirely separate things, firstly a walk we had last weekend and secondly reading Jane's great blog The life of an eccentric English booklady where she shared some wonderful 19th century advice on improving lowness of spirits.  One of the suggestions for improving mood was to 'Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue'.    I must admit that even spending time in our garden in sunshine this afternoon, listening to the birds and seeing what is happening outside did make me very happy.  My hands are scratched by brambles and we barely scratched the surface of all the work there is to do, but just being outside was so lovely.

Last weekend we went for a walk which took in both farmland and woodland so I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took.

The ducks enjoying the new pond created by incessant rain

Sodden fields

Looking across a valley filled with beech and birch trees

Muddy banks of the river.  We saw a pair of dippers dancing in and out of the water

Beech trees and much lichen

Ferns growing out of moss and lichen on a tree

Ferns haven't really died back from last year.

The sheep were quite muddy in their field

Very free range chickens

Hedgerow not looking quite right for winter

The holly bush, a sober lump of green,
Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,
And smiles at winter be it eer so keen
With all the leafy luxury of May.
And O it is delicious, when the day
In winter's loaded garment keenly blows
And turns her back on sudden falling snows,
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of evergreen that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving storm;
And in the bitterest day that ever blew
The walk will find some places still and warm
Where dead leaves rustle sweet and give alarm
To little birds that flirt and start away.
John Clare - Winter Walk