Category Archives: Gardening

Wordless Wednesday – determined honeysuckle

Gardening doesn’t usually turn out the way you expected – much like life 

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Happiness – one week and five things that helped #1

The human mind always makes progress, but it is progress in spirals.
Madame De Stael (1766-1817), a woman of letters, at the heart of European romanticism and a leading opponent of Napoleon.

This year has been very tough, I’m not ready to go into details at the moment, but I’m beyond fortunate to have my family and friends around the world, supporting us all – but most of all My Chap whose been my rock since the day we met.  Im SO excited to be marrying him later this year.

My health hasn’t been great, including much increased arthritis pain too, contributing to bad sleeping and chronic exhaustion; but I’m working on all sorts of strategies to help me.  I am grateful to everyone who supports me, the NHS staff, colleagues, friends and family – I’d be in a pickle without them.

Amongst these tough times, there has been times of happiness, things and people that have made me happy. As part of my mindfulness practise, I’ve been noting them down, more systematically, in my diary.

I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to start writing a regular post about what I’ve  been grateful for and/or what’s make me happy.  I was inspired by:

They’re great ladies – one I’ve known for years in real life too (first in Manchester and now she lives in Worcester) and the other lives round the corner from me – though we’ve not yet met face to face. That’s the Internet for you – hopefully we’ll meet up soon.  They write thought-provoking blogs, touching on wide ranging topics including feminism, life with a chronic pain condition, running, the outdoors, food, cooking, life in Manchester and the West Midlands – many adventures and plenty of gin 🙂

Please have a read of their blogs

1. Journals – gratitude, health notes and ‘to do’ lists

7 May 2017 – stigu journal, calm journal and ‘to do today and tomorrow’

I love my Stigu Planner*** (http://sticktostigu.com/);  it’s a combination of a diary, note book and to do lists. They describe it as a rest and zest handbook – there are themes for each month, weekly practise activities – some of them are really funny cartoons. I had a stigu journal last year too – it’s not too ‘full on’, supporting my wellbeing, without being all about ‘rules’.

The Calm Book – calm the mind, change the world*** is great for suggestions on Nature, Sleep, Travel, Work, Creativity, Relationships, Food  (www.calm.com), with affirmations and visualisations (there’s an app too).  The daily questions are:

  • What made you feel calm Today?
  • What are you grateful For?
  • What were three highlights of today?

It’s so beautiful with wonderful illustrations and pictures; I can’t write in the book – I tend to write in my stigu journal instead.

For well over a year, I’ve been making a note of my arthritis and pain symptoms, as participant in Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, (www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com); it’s a citizen science project run by the University of Manchester investigating if there’s a connection between weather conditions and chronic pain.  For me, warm, dry weather definitely helps my arthritis pain; I’ve been tracking it with an app as part of the project.  I’m looking forward to reading the wider results.

Also, I’ve been doing daily mindfulness practise for a couple of years now, and reflecting on what I’m grateful for each day – so I’ve decided to be a bit more organised about writing them down, so I can look back in the future, as my situation improves.

I’m grateful for all these things these things, and yoga too.

2. The Garden (and Gardening) 

Hand with two rings with mud under fingernails, sedums in background

7 May 2017 – been replanting sedums for My Chap – mud under the fingers as usual. 

I managed to get out in the garden every day this week, sometimes it was for only half an hour to water the plants. It’s been v windy and dry here.  We’ve managed to sort out, cut back and clear alot of the ‘dead wood’ from the winter. We’ve planted some shrubs too.  Ive written before how my garden is my solace; I know I ‘need’ to spend as much time as I can outside – even if it’s just drinking tea in the garden – when I’m too exhausted to do anything more.  I’ve been planning which flowers to cut for next week’s In a Vase on Monday too.

  • A summary of my ‘In a Vase on Monday’ offerings since 2015.
  • Cathy hosts the meme over at Rambling in the Garden – here’s her summary. Each post will have links to people (and their vases) contributing from all around the world.

3. Afternoon Tea with a pal 

Cakes sandwiches on a three tier vintage China cake stand

7 May 2017 – Afternoon tea at Vintage Ambience, Monton, Salford

I spent a lovely afternoon with my friend, and her beautiful baby girl, we talked about life, the universe and everything – wedding planning too. I met her at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute (www.cottonopoliswi.com) She’s wise and kind,  much more crafty than me, and makes great cakes too. The afternoon tea at Vintage Ambience*** in Monton was top notch (www.vintageambiance.co.uk)

4. Smoked Salmon Salad

7 May 2017 – smoked salmon salad in the garden


It was a bank holiday weekend here in the UK , and, the weather was lovely, so we had lunch in the garden everyday. My Chap is a great cook, and makes a great salad – this one had lovely heritage tomatoes too. My Chap and I talked about what what veg we might grow in the garden this year; cherry tomatoes haven’t grown well these last few years, we don’t have a greenhouse, so I don’t think this helps.

The smoked salmon reminded me of all the men in my life who’ve loved it. My Uncle Fred introduced me to it when I was about 18 months old. He, my Aunt, and my Dad grew up in Hackney in East London before, and during, Second World War with many Jewish neighbours so it was a staple food for them.  My love of cooking comes from them, I feel their influence and love every day, even though they’ve all passed on a good few years ago.

5. Wedding Planning 

7 May 2017 – wedding countdown website


We’ve been trundling on with our plans – we’ve spoken to our friend about invitations, I’ve met my dress designers, bridesmaids dresses are on track and we are meeting our florist soon too. Our photographer is great too and every time we go to our venue, we love it even more, they make luscious cake too.  Ours is going to be an unconventional wedding – just the way we want it.  My Chap is doing so much of the arrangements as I’m under the weather, it’s a team effort – Roll on September 🙂

The quote from Madam De Stael, was in my Stigu Journal, reading about her reminded me, we must persist. As Stigu notes elsewhere , life moves in spirals, only you can decide in which direction.  I’m  moving in the right direction… Slowly but getting there.

What have you been grateful for this week? 

Carpe Diem

Love Bec

xxx

I’ve mentioned activities in Friday 28 April to Thursday 4th May 2017
***Please note: I paid full price for both journals and afternoon tea, I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.

In a Vase on Monday – Love, fire and determination

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

Ann Landers (1918-2002) American Advice Columnist

For various reasons, which I won’t go into right now, we have barely been in the garden this year – it’s been tumultuous to say the least – no time for much apart from pressing issues, let alone gardening or blogging.  From the patio window, I’d seen various bulbs flower and go over, during late winter and early Spring, dwarf irises, crocuses, various daffodils and narcissi, and the early tulips.  At Easter weekend we had a bit more time and some dry weather, we ventured into the garden to see how things were and start tidying up – there were quite a few tulips around. so I picked some which reminded me of fire. There was also tête-à-tête daffodils and some orange wall flower.

My Chap and I have got back to arrangements for our wedding in September this week 🙂 we’ve got a flowery theme – and regular readers won’t be surprised to know it features purple. I CANNOT WAIT to get married to him and continue our life together – happily married.

tête-à-tête daffodils, orange and red tulips, orange wall flower, red triangular crystal vase

In a Vase on Monday – daffodils, orange and red tulips, orange wallflower – 19 April 2017

 

They’re are in a vase which I found in the house of my friend, who died in 2015. It was his mother’s but I never saw any flowers in the house, in the 25 years I knew her.  I have used this vase on ‘In a vase on Monday’ before and had flowers from My Chap in it regularly.  It’s a 1960s crystal style triangular vase – it wasn’t her taste at all so I think it might have been a wedding gift.  She was a very determined lady – a Northern matriarch with a love of crosswords and opera. We always got on very well.  I miss her too, she died in 2013.

daffodils collage

In a Vase on Monday – reminding me of fire – 19 April 2017

I’m joining Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who hosts this worldwide link up of people picking flowers and foliage from their gardens or locality – she has a lovely fresh pink and blue vase – with a tulips in it too (as Cathy says – a hazard of this time of year but I don’t mind as I love tulips).  It SO helps me to look at other people’s flowers and arrangements- it lifts my mood even in the darkest times (metaphorically as well as physically). Cathy, and the other gardening bloggers, have been been lovely to me during all the tribulations I’ve had over the last few years – so many supportive and positive comments.  Thank you everyone – it means such alot to me.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Just some of the things my garden means to me – 19 April 2017

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of.
Bethany Hamilton (1990 – ) Professional surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack aged 13.

I’m a grown woman and many people would say I’m a determined person, with bucket loads of resilience – but gosh it’s been tested recently, with everything that life has thrown at My Chap and I over the last few years – once again I’m feeling chronically exhausted, with a lot of physical pain, especially from my arthritis.

I’m channelling all these attributes Bethany speaks of, and the determination of my suffragette granny, to keep going one day at a time, gradually getting better again.  All the women in my family are resolute, tenacious women – whatever their age 😉

I am SO looking forward to spending our wedding day in September with these women, with my female pals from all across the world some I’ve know for decades and some much more recently. The blokes I know are pretty awesome too.  It’s going to be a day of fun, flowers, cake, music, dancing but most of all love and laughter.   Fingers crossed for no rain as we are planning an outdoor ceremony.

I am grateful every day for my family and friends, but most of all I am grateful my wonderful Chap pitched up in my life nearly seven years ago.  I would be in a pickle if he wasn’t here holding my hand.  Fire in our hearts always – I definitely agree with theAnn Landers quote.

I’m determined to get out in the garden more too – It’s my solace and I know it will help me.   And pick some more flowers for vases too.

Have a lovely week.

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday – Azalea ‘thinking of home’ bush

pink azalea flowers

Electric pink azalea ‘Thinking of home bush’ 20 April 2017

A falcon hovers at the edge of the sky.Two gulls drift slowly up the river.Vulnerable while they ride the wind,they coast and glide with ease.Dew is heavy on the grass below,the spider’s web is ready.Heaven’s ways include the human:among a thousand sorrows, I stand alone.
Du Fu – Influential Chinese Poet (712-770) – Also he wrote often about azaleas

lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday (not) – luscious lavender and jam at Christmas 

As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul. Anonymous

Merry Christmas everyone – I’m late to the party as usual for in A Vase on Monday; I’ve been wiped out with flu all week confined to bed, which messed our Christmas plans a bit.

It feels a bit odd writing about lavender at this time of year – it has been a very odd year in many ways – and I don’t just mean the weird weather.  I’ve been back at work over a year, in a new role too, but it takes just about all my energy to do my job and run the basics of life – hence my rather intermittent blogging.  Thank goodness for my Chap who is truly wonderful and takes care of me every day.

Lavender is one of my favourite plants – I adore its scent as well as the flowers.  I have about 15 plants around my sunny, front garden – varieties include Munstead, Hidcote, Vera (White) – They thrive in the fairly rubbly soil.  I’ve got some other lavender in the back garden in pots on the deck – under the conifers that overhang from my neighbour’s garden.  So as you can imagine I was thrilled to find some still flowering in  December – despite the very wet and windy weather we’ve had in Manchester.  I picked these on 23 December 2016.

lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday – lavender in v small gin bottle with my prize winning Autumn fruit jam

I’ve written about lavender quite a few times on the blog, but I think this is the first time the flowers have appeared in a vase alone.

As usual, I am joining in with Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who hosts this link up – she has a simple, beautiful, vase of snowberries and rosehips – it looks very wintry and festive.  I do love looking at flowers, plants and vases from around the world – it definitely brightens by days – and my mission for next year is to pick, photo and post more often about the plants from my garden – and be more prompt on Mondays even though Cathy says it doesn’t matter if I’m late.

Women’s Institute prize winning jam – yes really
My jam won ‘tastiest jam’ at our  Women’s Institute weekend away in September.  I am staggered still, as it’s only my second attempt at jam and there was ALOT of competition. We had a wonderful time in the Cheshire countryside at a Scout camp at our Big Weekender – do have a look at the photos :-). I was very chuffed to win this badge 🙂

apple blackberry raseberry jam

Autumn fruit jam (blackberry, apple, raspberry, blueberry, red currant) – a prize winning jam


Recipe – Autumn Fruit Jam

I used 900g mixed soft fruit which included:

  • about 300g v tart blackberries from garden
  • two big Braeburn apples – cored, peeled and sliced
  • about 200g blueberries – only about 20 from garden, most were from a well known supermarket 😉
  • about 250g frozen raspberries from the garden
  • handful v v tart red currants from my garden

and 800g  jam sugar (this has more pectin)

Method

  • I put blackberries and apple in first in my maslin pan, added the raspberries and blueberries and topped up with redcurrants.
  • I added the sugar slowly and ensured it melted first, then added a bit more.
  • I simmered and stirred, everything slowly stunned to mush.
  • Keep going til you get a ‘rolling boil’ – the liquid went darker and the bubbles look thicker.
  • To check the jam will set I used the frozen plate method
  • put plate in the freezer – take plate out when ‘rolling boil’ – splodge a blob of jam on the plate – push it to see if jam wrinkles then it’s ready
  • I’ve also got a jam thermometer but i prefer the plate method.
  • My chap ladled the jam into the jars – jam funnel much easier.
  • Jars and lids were washed and ‘cooked’ in oven to sterilise them.
  • pour the jam in when still warm 🙂
  • I’ve made chutney for years but jam is MUCH quicker to do.
lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle 

If you’re wondering why I picked a Pinkster gin bottle – it’s because it’s flavoured with raspberries 🙂 and these bottles are from gin explorer boxes that come monthly for my Chap from me. It’s a really great way to try out new gins.

The Christmas gin fairy might just have brought a full size bottle too – shame I’m still feeling far too rough to drink anything apart from peppermint tea.  But it’s not all been bad, I’ve been checking out wedding photographers. I’m on the mend slowly, but that’s been the recurring theme of 2016.

I hope you’ve all have a lovely, relaxing Christmas break and that 2017 is a really good year for you.

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx

 

*I wasn’t asked to write about ‘gin explorer’ and I pay full subscription price for each box.

In a Vase on Monday – first and latest fuchsias

In search of my Mother’s garden, I found my own. 

Alice Walker, writer (1942- )

Hardy fuchsias are tough – mine have been flowering well, despite very wet and windy weather in Manchester.  By the time I got outside, in daylight, to pick the fuchsias the rain had pulverised the flowers on two of the three bushes I have planted around the garden.  These are picked from the bush outside the kitchen window, as it’s more protected from the elements.  I took the photo at 2pm with a flash, as it was so gloomy.

pink and purple fuchsia, pink dianthus and cotoneaster in hand painted lavender pattern vase

21 Nov 2016 – fuchsia, pink dianthus and cotoneaster in hand painted (by me!) vase at 2pm in the gloom.

Fuchsias are the first flowers I remember in my Mum’s garden when I was very little – I thought they were like ballerinas.  My Mum adores fuchsias, and has always had lots of hardy and tender ones all around the garden in pots.  I grew up in Berkshire and our garden was heavy London clay so many of her favourite plants were in terracotta pots on the patio – I learnt to garden with her.   My Mum is  nearly 80 now (please don’t tell her I said that 😉 ) and still has many pots filled with fuchsia, around her large patio – and often brings another fuchsia for our collection.  My Chap just smiles and finds another space for them.

I’ve cut cotoneaster too, which is next to the fuchsia by the front door, the bush is covered in red berries and the leaves are turning red – it looks glorious – I don’t know the variety as this was one of the few plants in the garden when I arrived. The cotoneaster is proping up the fuchsia stems just like it does in the garden. The dianthus  was a gift and this is the very last flower – the plant never really got going this year as it’s been so wet.  I bought the fuchsia in Morrisons of all places and it’s tom thumb (or a relative) – It grows to window hight which makes a lovely view when I’m washing up.

21 Nov 2016 - cotoneaster, hardy fuchsia and pink dianthus

21 Nov 2016 – cotoneaster, hardy fuchsia and pink dianthus

I decided to take a photo indoors too – I rarely do take indoor photos of anything as my house is quite dark (north facing) and small so there’s always something in the background.

21 Nov 2016 - cotoneaster, fuchsia and dianthus in my hand painted lavender vase.

21 Nov 2016 – cotoneaster, fuchsia and dianthus in my hand painted lavender vase.

I painted the jug at ‘Pottery Corner’ in Chorlton*, Manchester in March 2016, using glass paint.  It’s just one of the many things I’ve done with my WI pals from Cottonopolis WI www.cottonopoliswi.com, in Ancoats in Manchester.  I was really pleased with how well they came out, as I’m quite clumsy and not much of an artist.  Do come along if you’re local or look out for a WI – it’s not what you think it will be like 🙂

purple vase and jug - hjandpainted by me at Pottery Corner, Chorlton

March 2016 – Painted vase and jug – I painted at Pottery Corner, Chorlton, Manchester with the lovely Cottonopolis Women’s Institute.

Looking back – first fuchsias (and first terracotta pots) 

I looked back on Facebook and found some photos of the first pots I had in my garden.  My Mum came up to visit in May 2010, bringing some spare terracotta pots, and we spent a happy few hours planting them up.  The number of terracotta pots has grown rather alot since then 🙂

Pink, purple fuchsia, petunia, lobelia' helicrysum, pelagoniums in Pots. Copyright R Jones

First pots in my garden (with fuchsia, petunia, lobelia’ helicrysum, pelagoniums) – August 2010

hanging basket and pot with pink petunias, fuchsia and lobelia - orange rose

19 November 2016 – Flowers from my garden in Summer 2010 – my first pot and hanging basket,  with my solitary rose

In August 2010, I wrote  (on facebook),

more pots in my garden – I had such fun planning these… could be turning into a closet gardener…

In fact, I’ve always been a gardener but I lived in flats in Manchester for over 20 years, so had no opportunity to do much.  I’d garden when I was at home at my Mum and Dad’s house down South.   A small garden was the number one priority when I was looking for a house to buy.

I wrote about my Mum and her love of gardening in one of my early posts in February 2015 and fuchsias get a mention too.   Considering how many fuchsias I have around the garden, and how long they flower for, I’m really surprised how rarely they’ve appeared in posts or in Vases:

I love fuchsias and have plenty of tender ones which live in the garage over the winter (as we don’t have space for a greenhouse).   I really must remember to pick and photograph more fuchsias next year.

I’m dreaming of Spring and planting bulbs in pots in the porch where it’s dry and my Chap is distributing the pots around the garden.  This week Cathy has a very zingy pink Chrysanthumum which is making me think of high summer.  Do have a look at her post on Rambling in the Garden, where people from around the world post pictures of flowers from their gardens and localities.  No matter how grey and wet the weather is, these beautiful photos and descriptions lift my mood.

Have a lovely week and I hope it’s dry where you are.

Carpe Diem

love Bec xx

* I paid full price for my painted vases and wasn’t asked to write a blog post about Pottery Corner.

 

Wordless Wednesday – renewal, regrowth – one year on

sycamore tree with regrowth after felling - copyright R Jones Nov 2016

16 November 2016 – Sycamore at the end of the street – so much has changed for the better in a year, this tree reminds me to keep going 🙂 #365selfdaysofselfcare