Sunday, 16 July 2017

All the summer things




Life here has been passing in a glorious summer blur of sweet peas, blueberries, sun, watering cans, bees on herb flowers, green beans, raspberries, ice-cream, skies of every colour, long golden evenings, cricket, snatched moments lost in a good book, butterflies, clover flowering in the lawn and puppy dogs' tails.

Did I mention cricket? Six games in seven days the other week, with training on the seventh. But it's been lovely, a deckchair in the evening sunshine, you know the sort of thing. It's a short but intense season, all but over now. People are talking about the start of football training. I'm holding on to the summer for the next few weeks.

On the hottest day we went to the outdoor pool which was lovely.


In the garden I've been press-ganging the children into blueberry picking. The biggest boy was horrified to find once you've done it, it all needs doing again three days later. I've been making Nigel Slater's blueberry "muffins". The quotes are all important apparently - they're cakier than muffins, although to be honest I can't tell the difference. I might try this one next, I'm a big fan of almonds in cakes.


The biggest boy and I did our bird survey down by the river the other day. I spotted a common scoter all by myself which has elevated my status no end. I also found one of those helium balloons in the hedgerow. They're such a menace, especially the ones that are released deliberately and end up causing trouble for animals and wildlife. It's just littering.


Rant over. How is your summer going? We have another week of school here, but then we're free. We can't wait.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Alpha dog


no dog here; just a couple of cushions







It's felt like the onset of winter today. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but I did have to wrap up in several layers this morning and right now I'm seriously considering a hot water bottle. Summer was glorious though wasn't it. The sudden plummet in temperature has made me feel a bit peculiar though. Should I be knitting? Laying down fat for winter? Or replacing the flipflops that the dog destroyed? Maybe all three to be on the safe side.

The cricket season is pressing on at full throttle. I'm quite enjoying it in fact. I take a chair and have a nice read for half an hour while they warm up or mill around or whatever it is they do before the match. Then I stare into the middle distance and clap from time to time and listen to the internal voices. All very calming. It does go on and on though.

A dog savvy friend came round yesterday and within minutes had Bertie doing exactly what she wanted. It was poetry in motion, honestly. She was the alpha dog and he was bottom of the pack. Turns out the key is a firm hand and a bag of goat's cheese cubes. Of course it's not quite successful when I do it, and the rest of the family all have their own thing going on, so it can be a bit confused with occasional shouting (at each other, not the dog) but for one glorious moment there I thought, I can do this, I AM alpha dog. Well, we'll see.

He was officially allowed out today, so after school the littlest boy and I took him for a spin round the block. It went better than I imagined it would, Bertie was actually keen to keep going in the same direction most of the time. I managed to let the littlest boy have the lead the whole way round despite being in a state of total panic that he would drop it and that would be the end of it all. Brownie point for me I think. I am still very anxious about it all. No doubt I will wake up at 4am imagining the worst. What is it about 4am? The very blackest of thoughts emerge don't they? I try very hard not to give them head space and go to an imaginary happy place instead. Goodness, am I sounding slightly barking today? I have a feeling I am. I think I have a cold coming, plus going from summer to winter in the space of three days has all been very discombobulating.

How are you faring? Those of you in sweltering corners of the world should head for England instantly, it is all deliciously cool here. I'll get the kettle on. CJ xx

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Being a tree

managed to grow my own standard bay tree from a rooted cutting

the roses? no, that wasn't me


oh, well, okay, maybe it was me then



I'm taking a deep breath as I sit down to chat to you. Dog ownership is a thing of ups and downs I'm finding. But right now he's asleep. In a highly illegal spot on the sofa, but I am ignoring that for the sake of a little peace. You will of course recall how fond I am of a little peace. The sofa he is on is dark brown, with a mid-brown sheepskin on it (called Larry). Bertie jumps on when he thinks no-one is looking and flattens himself out in the middle of Larry and concentrates on being invisible. He looks up just by moving his eyes, not his head, all the better to remain undetected.

He is incredibly bitey, and his favourite person to bite is the littlest boy. We have tried all the things you are supposed to do: yelping - we really have perfected our yelps - standing like a tree or alternatively going limp. The biggest boy and I laughed so much one evening trying to go limp as a small rabid dog tried to tear us limb from limb. He was growling and shaking and sinking his teeth all the way in and I was yelling, "Go limp, just GO LIMP!" I don't remember the last time I laughed so much. I have a feeling it was verging on hysteria.

Being a tree is occasionally successful, but the littlest boy is unable to stop himself from backing away and trying to pick his feet up out of the way. Of course this is the most exciting thing possible to Bertie and he attacks all the more. This morning he tried entertaining him in the garden by blowing bubbles - a suggestion in his Puppy Training For Kids Book. Bertie bit his ankle and he promptly tipped the entire pot of bubble mixture all down his pyjamas. I thought it had gone over the dog for a moment and had visions of having to rinse it all out.

Anyway, it's hard work, but I'm sure you all know that already, you don't need me to tell you. I have not been the most patient person. I am feeling slightly fraught by the fact that I don't seem to get anything much done each day, and it's making me feel a bit overwhelmed. Oh, it will pass, I know, and I shall miss his giant-pawed puppiness when it's gone.

I drafted in the biggest boy to water the garden for me this evening. After he had finished the earth was still completely bone dry. Sigh. It's been done properly now (middle boy) and some small semblance of order is fleetingly here.

Are all enjoying the summer weather? I particularly like being able to be outside first thing and last thing without a cardigan. That doesn't happen often. Enjoy the rest of the week.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Strawberry season

strawberries? no haven't chewed them at all...


Shall we talk politics? No? No appetite for it? I think we need a break. At least until Monday.

I spent almost the entire day at a cold and very windy football tournament. My entire face has gone bright pink with windburn. It's very eye-catching.

The littlest boy was charged with staying at home and looking after his puppy all by himself. Well, other people were at home too, but he was main dog man. He did beautifully. Feeding, entertainment, scooping etc.

Thank you for all of your tips, I've read your comments through a few times and memorised them. Bertie's settling in nicely. He sleeps so well; it's his saving grace. And he matches the cushions, that's good too.

He has long wavy ears. It occurs to me that I may be one of those people who looks like their dog. We could enter the 'Owner Who Looks Most Like Their Dog' class at dog shows. Something to aim for no?


A couple of new plants here this year. I've been a bit obsessed with aeonium Schwartzkopf since seeing it at the American Museum in Bath a couple of years ago. I found this photo I took - not the best picture of the plant, but you can just see it by the doorway. Lots of long bare stems with beautiful dark glossy balls of foliage on top.


Then I saw more outside of a seaman's cottage in Porthmadog, North Wales.


There are some other big green ones there as well. It became one of those plants I really hankered after. A few weeks back I bought a tiny one on eBay. When it turned up it was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. Pale green and weedy with hardly any purple tinge. I potted it out into a bigger pot and popped it on the windowsill. At the time I wondered if it even was a Schwartzkopf.

It quickly transformed beyond all recognition though. Now it's much bigger and a glossy dark purple. It'll be a long time until it reaches the size of the one at the American Museum, but I'm patient. I'm a gardener after all.

Another plant I was after was pelargonium Lord Bute. A Victorian variety, but still quite popular. It's a scrumptious deep purple, just about my favourite colour in the garden, after green and white.


Again, it's a small plant. I'll probably take a cutting or two if it's big enough in a month or so. Both this and the aeonium will need to be overwintered somewhere frost-free I think.


I hope all is well with you. Have a lovely Sunday. We'll be concentrating on not eating unripe strawberries and not biting small boys no matter how tasty they are. CJ xx

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Of petunias and rain



Literally all the photos I have for you today. I did have a lovely pot of flowers in the garden, but the rain has mashed them all down and somehow they seem to be half the volume now. I couldn't get the colours right on the camera anyway. A really dark plummy dianthus, the deepest petunia, a dark geranium and some bright pinks too. Maybe it will all recover.

The small chocolate dog arrived in full force on Sunday. The littlest boy is oh so happy. He's named him Bertie. Amazing how one so small can be quite so dynamic. I like to come home in the morning after taking the children to school and make the house tidy and quiet and calm and eat my breakfast and sit down at my laptop with peace and order all around. I REALLY like peace and order. Oh well, no doubt I'll adjust.

House training is not going well. The handbook says I should stand outside and wait. Bertie and I aren't really keen on that bearing in mind the torrential rain out there. He ate a petunia instead and we ran back inside. Maybe we'll do better when the sun comes out.

Any top dog tips gratefully received.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Chocolate







It's been a bit of a mad week here. Lots of rushing around organising things, lists, appointments, you know the sort of thing. We did find time for an ice-cream at a local garden centre. It's a nice one, animals to feed, ducks on a little pond, space to run around, that sort of thing. The ice-cream is good too.

It looks as though the middle boy's knee is going to be fine, thankfully. Of course, he wants to leap straight back on his scooter.

Look what the children found in the garden.


Pretty impressive no? I think it's a female stage beetle. We've just finished reading Beetle Boy by M G Leonard and loved it, so it was especially apt.

Puppy searching continued apace. As if they're not quite delicious enough as it is, people tend to describe them as chocolate or apricot or cream. Cute as a button with big brown eyes is not enough it seems, there must be a scrumptious food analogy made. I have seen caramel and cinnamon and mocha and coffee. For me, it always has to be chocolate.


Coming soon to a blog near you.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Of apricots and knees



Chelsea Flower Show has been a visual treat hasn't it. I didn't get to go, but I've seen the odd bit on tv, in between going to copious amounts of cricket and athletics. The above is a garden we visit regularly that was a Chelsea garden a few years ago. It was moved, and it's settled into its new home beautifully. The planting is still doing well and it looks as lovely as ever. That's a wild duck on the water there. It's a rain garden, designed to deal with rain and also to be good for wildlife. The little building is a repurposed shipping container.

Sadly the garden and the plot don't quite measure up. Once Chelsea wears off it'll all be fine though, I just need to stop seeing the stars.






See? All terribly normal. Never mind, normal is good no?

I spent a hot sweaty afternoon yesterday at the Minor Injuries Unit with the middle boy who fell off of his scooter. His knee swelled up horribly. We're waiting for a hospital appointment now to see if there's a problem. I have everything crossed - he has some away things coming up that he'll have to miss if it's not good news.

Do any of you know why I might have a tin of apricot halves in the cupboard? I seem to remember I was wandering around in blogland and I saw something delicious and rushed out and bought the apricots to make it. No idea what it might have been now or where I saw it. I don't think it was an apricot upside-down cake. Maybe a tarte tatin? If anyone happens to remember seeing apricot deliciousness somewhere perhaps you could point me in the right direction.

The littlest boy is in birthday countdown mode. In fact the excitement is so intense this year (puppy - need I say more) that sometimes we can barely breathe. Bearing in mind it's half term now and everyone is home and one of us can't get out and about much it might be a bit of a long week. I am bracing myself.