Category Archives: Women’s Institute

In a Vase on Monday – Raspberry (jam) and custard

‘Happiness is like jam, you can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself’ Author: Unknown

The weather in Manchester has made a return to its usual Summer windy, soggy-ness but that’s a good thing as you almost hear the plants sucking up the water. Everything is looking a bit more chirpy than last week. I’m still pottering along gardening in the shade, sorting out the house and making changes – it’s been a good summer so far especially as my arthritis pain just about disappears when it’s very hot.

I’ve been pondering a few things this week – in the garden as out and about. We’ve got a few trips planned including a trip to Derbyshire at the weekend and a WI camping trip in September. It was jam making of all things, that inspired my In a Vase on Monday.


In a vase on Monday: yarrow and marguerites

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Spread kindness like confetti – International Kindness Day 

Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. Annie Lennox – singer 

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet, or the news, today you can’t possibly have missed that it’s International Kindness Day.  I don’t know about you but I try to be kind to people, ‘stand in their shoes’, ‘treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself’… I don’t always get kindness back, but hey that’s their problem not mine.  But, what I do know is being kind, helps me be a better person.  It also helps when the world around us looks dark, whether it’s Trump, Brexit or people breaking laws.

13 November 2017 – Spread kindness like confetti

One of the best things I found today was the 2017 Kindness Advent Calendar from Helen at Make Today Make Today Happy. Have a look!

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Vase with Hypericum, Rudbeckia, Hydrangea

In a Vase on Monday -friends, flowers and the future – it’s never too late

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  Marcel Proust 1871-1922

This week is the third birthday of ‘In a Vase on Monday’ hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. This week she asked us to join her and write on the theme of three.   Cathy’s blog post really resonated with me, her kind words in my difficult times last year really helped me, as did her fellow gardening bloggers from all across the world.  Reading their blogs and all the beautiful flowers lifted me so much… and inspired me to plant, prune and grow.  I’ve picked three kinds of plants to represent three groups of my friends.

  • Lacecap hydrangea – these are white, fading to pink and then finally the delicate brown of the lace which look beautiful through the winter. It’s planted in my front garden and it makes me smile every time I leave the house.
  • Rudbeckia – The dark one is ‘Cappuccino’; I don’t know the name of the bright yellow one. I bought it at Monton festival. There are hundreds of varieties of Rudbeckia.
  • Hypericum – which has small yellow flowers in the spring which change to red berries in late summer and black berries in the autumn. This plant was in my front garden when I bought my house seven years ago.   So much has changed since then but so much has stayed the same.

My friends have helped me so much especially these last 18 months, just as my garden has.  Writing my blog helped me too even though most of the time I was so exhausted, I could barely string a sentence together or take photos.    I’m feeling so much better now, but my new role means reams reading, many people to meet and numerous projects to plan, so  less time for getting outdoors, let alone blogging.
My mission for 2017 is to be much more organised!

Vase with Hypericum, Rudbeckia, Hydrangea

13 November 2016 – 3rd birthday for In a Vase on Monday -Hypericum, Rudbeckia, Hydrangea

These flowers represent just some of my friendships –

  • Hydrangea – my Women’s Institute friends (some are old friends and some new) Inspiring Women every one of them – We’re members of Cottonopolis WI, in Ancoats, in Manchester– do come along if you’re local
  • my pals from work who come from so many places near and far (like the many varieties of Rudbeckia), some of them I’ve known for nearly 20 years and others are much more recent arrivals in my life.
  • and my Monton pals who’ve always been here with me  🙂 like the Hypericum.

The square vase is a gift from one of my oldest friends from University in Stirling – I’ve known her and my other Uni pals thirty years this autumn.  How did that happen ;-)? I feel 31 in my head apart from when my arthritis, aches and pains are playing up.  They’ve been such a support to me over so many years, but especially these last 18 months.

Cathy also talks about how picking flowers for her Vase has made her very observant about her garden.   This certainly chimes with me – noticing what is in my garden, what’s in bud, flowering, what’s gone over – and also what’s been munched by the slugs.  It helps with my mindfulness, which is one of the  activities which helps me daily.  She also says it’s humbling to read how the meme has changed people’s lives.  I know it’s changed mine.

Thank you Cathy

I know how much though goes into Cathy’s comments on every blog that links up to the meme.  Her words helped me so much when I was feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted.

And I’m sure this will make Cathy smile – as usual I’m late with my contribution.  I don’t think I’ll count up how often I’ve actually posted on a Monday and how often I’ve missed the day – oops. Cathy says it doesn’t matter so I guess I’ll keep picking vases and posting them a bit late.

It’s been a very hectic at work – and frankly it’s been another momentous week for the world.  So I’ve been reflecting this week about remembrance, friendship and the future.

  • I joined in with ‘In a Vase on Monday’ on 16 March 2015 only a couple of weeks after I started blogging – tête-à-tête daffodils and iris.  I’ve planted daffodils for next Spring this week – how appropriate 🙂
13 November 2016 - 3rd birthday for In a Vase on Monday -Hypericum, Rudbeckia, Hydrangea

13 November 2016 – 3rd birthday for In a Vase on Monday -Hypericum, Rudbeckia, Hydrangea

RHS Bridgewater – their 5th Garden here in the North West of England

This week I went to a public meeting about the plans for the new Royal Horticultural Society Bridgewater Garden on the site of Worsley New Hall in Salford.   It’s called Bridgewater because the canal runs to the south of the site.

  • There’s a sneak preview on the RHS website – and they’re asking the public for comments via email.
  • The plans look wonderful, they will repair the walled kitchen garden, repair the Victorian cottages and bring them back into use.
  • There will be low glass buildings, with cedar cladding and wild flower roofs.  It goes to Salford planning committee in December, with work starting Spring 2017.
  • There will be 140 jobs created at the garden, many volunteering opportunities, education, and support for schools, young people and the local community.  They will repurpose the disused terraces and formal gardens, repair the lake and put in a new one.
  • The first phase will open in 2019 (the area in the SW on the map) as the plants need to grow :-).

 The garden will be about a half hour walk from our house along the canal.   I’ll be a regular visitor; just like my Mum who’s a regular visitor at Wisley.  We often walk up to Worsley Green and the Woods, no one can believe how lovely it is despite being in the middle of the city.  We’ve been getting out on more walks around Lancashire and Greater Manchester too, so fingers crossed I might get up a small hill or two next year.

I can’t tell you how excited I am.   It will be stunning…  a new beginning.

In other news, we think we’ve found our wedding venue for September 2017.  It won’t be a surprize that it has a beautiful garden.

My Chap is my rock – he has truly helped my soul blossom – he IS my new beginning.

As Robert Ford (1874-1963), the American poet, who knew a thing or two about the rural life, said:

In three words I can some up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.  Robert Ford (1874-1963)

Carpe Diem indeed!

Much Love



spring wreath - tulips, roses,

In a vase on Monday (not)- Spring wreath

Inspiring Women – motto of the Women’s Institute 

I went on a wonderful adventure last weekend – a flower arranging course in a Georgian mansion in the beautiful village of Marcham, in Oxfordshire.   It wasn’t just in any old place – I went to Denman College which is part of the Women’s Institute.

Denman is home of the cookery school, craft and lifestyle courses – there are over 500 courses each year from day courses to week long ones covering all sorts of topics – not just what you’d expect from the WI – cooking, preserves, crafting, dress making, etc. They have classes on history, writing, dancing, drumming, as well as lots of trips and walks.

It was a spur of the moment thing to go – I’ve had such a rough time last year and things are hard going at work, because of departmental mergers. I thought of the contributors to ‘In a vase on Monday’ from all around the world and especially our host Cathy – so much inspiration and support from everyone.  I’ve learnt alot about flower arranging since I started my blog in February last year, though I mostly ‘plonk’ flowers in vases.  I thought now was a good time to learn more.   Also a change of scene – Denman and it’s 17 acres looked amazing on the photos.   So I ‘seized the day’!

spring wreath - tulips, roses,

Spring wreath I made at Women’s Institute Denman College – 1st April 2016

Do have a look at Cathy’s vase over at ‘Rambling in the Garden‘ – she has some beautiful tulips this week. Quite a few of my fellow – vase fillers have chosen tulips this week too.  My tulips in the garden are nearly ready to bloom – lots of purple and white ones from what I remember.   They’re one of my favourite flowers so I’ve planted many in the garden this year,  which seem to have escaped the squirrels – hurrah!

So today’s ‘In a vase on Monday’ isn’t what it should be – not posted on a Monday (Sunday!), not flowers from my garden and not a vase…. so I hope you don’t mind.

  • most of flowers and foliage are from Christine Pearce’s (the tutor) north facing garden in Abingdon in Oxfordshire, or from around the grounds of Denman (with permission) and the roses, tulips and carnation are from the wholesaler. – I hope this counts as ‘local’ for purposes of ‘In a vase on Monday’.
  • flowers – tulips, carnations and roses
  • foliage – Elaeagnus, rosemary, ivy, cornus, Choisya, euonymus
  • wreath base – hessian and hay with a block of oasis at the bottom right.
  • the wreath has a tiny vase in it – can you spot it?
  • I used Oasis for the first time – not too complicated considering everything… and I’ll definitely make more wreaths

My Chap was very impressed!

Wreath Repair 


Spring wreath with the first tulip from the garden by our front door- 4th April 2016

The wreath needed a bit of repair when it got home as it was warm in the classroom and the car…droopy tulips – so I added the first tulip from our garden and a tête a tête.

tulip and daffs Collage

I’m going to write more about my time at Denman in other posts:

  • how to make this Spring wreath – surprisingly simple to do and my first time using Oasis.
  • pot fleur flower arrangement – my 2nd arrangement on the course.
  • my hand tied bouquet with Spring flowers – 3rd arrangement – v simple and logical to do.
  • staying at Denman College – for a Women’s Institute newbie like me 🙂
fountain, garden and view of the house at Denman College,

Denman College – the training centre for the Women’s Institute, Marcham Oxfordshire – 3 April 2016

Anyone can attend a course at Denman – you don’t need to be a member of the WI or a woman! People hold weddings there too.

Fountain and summer house at Denman College - 3 April 2016

Fountain and summer house at Denman College – 3 April 2016

I had a truly wonderful time, in a beautiful location, great food but most of all, with some lovely ladies (mostly from the WI and some not) – the sun was shining too.  I’ll definitely be back.

Carpe Diem

love Bec xx

Note: I paid full price for my course at Denman College and neither Denman or the Women’s Institute asked me to write a blog post about my visit.  


Wordless Wednesday -My first Blackberry and Apple Jam

Collage of Blackberry and Apple Jam - Inc Jars and Toast

#100happydays – Blackberry and Apple Jam For Cottonopolis Women’s Institute – 3rd Feb 2016

My first ever home made jam – for Cottonopolis Women’s Institute meeting 3rd February 2016 –

See my #100happydays photos here 

Cottonopolis WI, Christmas films and wreaths

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The beginning of December was really hectic for me – I was working on some new projects at work, with a whole new team in a different building, so there was a lot to get my head around.  They’re all lovely, very welcoming and I’m enjoying the projects, but I’m still absolutely shattered and my back pain is dire at the moment.   The #100happydays challenge has helped me look for positive things every day, even when I’m having a pain-filled and exhausting day.

I started to look forward to Christmas too – and one of the first things coming up in the month was our monthly meeting at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute on  2nd December 2015.

#100happydays Cottonopolis WI December meeting

#100happydays Cottonopolis WI 2 December 2015 meeting

50/100 – Cottonopolis Women’s Institute 2 December 2015

Our December meeting is all about Crafts and getting into the Christmas spirit.
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Love, food, knitting with the Cottonopolis WI and India

Happiness depends upon ourselves 

Aristotle 384 – 322 BC

It’s been very interesting  thinking everyday about what has made me happy –  it’s often centred around friends and the people I love, travel, food, places and history – our life in and around Manchester – the first industrial city.  Today, it’s a diverse, fascinating and tolerant city.  I’m proud to be an adopted Northerner.

I could, of course, take a picture of something in my garden every day for this challenge – as my garden does truly lift my soul.   Or a picture of my Chap – he has been my rock since the day we met – and particularly this year.

#100happydays is helping me get back to where I want to be.  Continue reading

Deeds not words, inspiring women, love

‘Deeds not Words’

Motto of Women’s Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and five women 10th October 1903

An update on my  #100happydays challenge – from  November 2015

29/100 Cottonopolis WI meeting – all about Suffragettes 

It was our monthly meeting for Cottonopolis WI – we eat cake, chat and have a lot of fun.  We only sing Jerusalem once a year at our AGM – did you know it’s was a suffragette anthem too?

This month’s talk was given by Sibby (@MCRTourGuide) all about the history of votes for women.  It was a fascinating talk and I learnt a lot more about the complex issues involved. We also discussed the accuracy  (or not) of the film Suffragette (2015).   A couple of weeks ago, I went to watch the film with 90 other Greater Manchester WI members – it was a great evening.

Do you know which country in the world introduced universal suffrage in 1893? 

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#100happydays challenge 21-28 friends, food, drink, flowers and yoda too

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief – Cicero

Here’s an update on the #100happydays challenge (from late October 2015) – you can see my latest photos on my twitter account (@becinmonton).

As usual, I seem to been busy but one or two things stand out for me; fun with friends, my love of sci-fi and also once again, how important my garden is to me.   I’m so fortunate that I’ve got lots of friends who I’ve met via work, studying and outdoor adventures.

I’ve made lots of new friends too, since I joined the Women’s Institute a few years ago.   I’m a proud member of Cottonopolis WI in Ancoats, Manchester. I guarantee the WI isn’t what you think it is and it’s not about Jam, Jerusalem or calendars either.

star wars cookie cutters, lunch at Kro, Batch Gin, suffragette film

21/100 star wars cookie cutters, 22/100 lunch at Kro, 23/100 Batch Gin, 24/100 suffragette film

21/100 A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

These are my favourite cookie cutters; my friend L bought them for me a few years ago; I tend to make ginger biscuits with them. We are both big Stars Wars fans. I was 10 in 1977 when the first film opened. I think we went to see it about six times that year, played with pretend light sabers in the playground. I think there were toys the following Christmas and I wish I’d kept the toys my Uncle gave me.  I think Princess Leia being a kick ass warrior helped my view of the world too. I’ve loved the films ever since (apart from Jar Jar Binks).  I am VERY excited for ‘Force Awakens’.

I had a good chat on the phone with my friend L who I’ve known for nearly 20 years. Continue reading