Friday, 30 May 2014

under star lit skies

It Could Be Anywhere

Kingston, 1933

Niagara, 1949
This is the magical, dreamy photography work of Amy Friend. I just wish I could set sail and drift off across open (but definitely not choppy) seas under a sky of pricked out stars...or maybe the glimmering light is the phosphorescence effervescence as described by Robert Macfarlane in The Wild Places

"I left my clothes on the stones, and waded into the warm shallows. Where is was undisturbed, the water was still and black. But where it was stirred, it burned with light. Every movement I made provoked a brilliant swirl, and everywhere it lapped against a floating body it was struck into colour, so that the few boats moored in the bay were outlined with luminescence, gleaming off their wet sloped sides. Glancing back, the cove, the cliffs and the caves all appeared trimmed  with light"

Whichever it is Amy's work has a soothing, peaceful quality to it. Just what's needed after a decidedly difficult week.

You can find Amy Friend's work to buy here in Citizen Atelier

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

simply living

There are a million words written on living simply. Living without the bells and whistles, the frilly bits and the expensive bits. Living within your means. Being grateful for what you have without always wanting more. We are in a situation where we live simply because there is very little choice but instead of feeling resentful or that I'm missing out I feel so glad that we do live a simple life and that the boys are growing up in this way.

Weekend days together are spent having an outdoor picnic, sandwiches, mugs of hot chocolate, milk heated in the trusty blue camping kettle, the last of the cake made to celebrate a sister's visit home, walking with arms around each other. I am so glad to be in their company. I don't think I need more than them to be honest. The frilly bits are nice, sometimes, but nothing beats their tight hugs, their "thank you for such a nice day" when all you've done is had a picnic and a walk in the woods.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

I will tell you a story

I've just finished Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. I'm only about 100 years behind everyone else but I'm so glad I finally, finally got round to reading it. Set in Nazi Germany it was never going to be a fluffy read and even though it's narrated by the eloquent, haunted, non-judgemental Death it is never morbid with flashes of humour and deep humanity. I have to admit I don't generally cry over books but I had a few gulpy moments - when Death describes carrying children's souls gently in his arms and the awful march of the Jews to Dachau and the end, of course the end. Well, we always knew how it would end.

lettuce and lovage soup :: recipe

At this time of year there's a delicious garden herb- lovage- growing merrily in a pot at our back door. Its leaves look like large flat leaf parsley and it tastes unusual - a little like celery, pepper and parsley combined. The leaves can be added to salads or used in stuffing, or torn and popped into a chicken's cavity before roasting. It also makes a great summer soup when cooked with lettuce. I've adapted the recipe from Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook - it's extremely quick to make and would be just perfect for a little al fresco dining...

4-5 Little Gem or other small lettuces
handful of young lovage leaves
30g butter
4 spring onions, chopped
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
400ml milk
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
75ml cream

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the spring onions and the lettuce and lovage leaves and wilt them down over a moderate heat. Don't brown the greens. Pour over the stock and milk, adding the nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Let this cook until all is tender (a matter of minutes) then liquidise until smooth. When the soup has cooled a little stir through the cream to add richness.

in the garden , in the hedgerows

There is no escaping the fact that things are growing, growing, growing. The garden is joyous, bountiful in its growth as indeed are the wild hedgerows. They are positively frothing. Hawthorn and cow parsley are fizzing over and the glorious scent of stock makes early morning walks a treat.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

what no tv looks like

If I had to choose what 'no tv' looked like it would be this rather Heath Robinson-esque contraption of Hugo and William's. Built from wheelbarrows, rope, skateboards and old bikes, rope ladders, the swing and tennis racquets it is, in fact, a spaceship. It represents all that is good about free time - the freedom to build from the imagination, the time to do it and  just enough boredom to make it worthwhile.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

the whole universe

I am not here. I am on a small rocky island in the gulf of Finland. I am warming my face in the sun while the sea washes and backwashes. I am drinking my coffee brewed on the stove, listening to Grandmother and Sophia squabbling like seagulls. At my feet is moss, warm springy damp moss. I am breathing in the sea, the air is shimmering.  I close my eyes. I am complete.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

zebra crossing

Children learn best through play. So in order to teach the younger boys a little basic (but potentially life saving) road safety I decided to make it fun. First they painted their own zebra crossing. Then they built a road from wooden bricks. Next they found lots of cars for their road and also some Lego people. When I asked Mide to name all the things that might be dangerous on the road he had an impressive list- trucks, tractors, lorries, milk tankers, cars, motorbikes, vans, BMWs... ?! (BMW drivers take note) We chatted about crossing the road, using a zebra crossing and also what to do when there wasn't one. Then they got to make their Lego people cross the road - for the most part, you'll be glad to know, the Lego people made it safely across. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

what are you afraid of?

William asked to paint this morning. He got out his watercolours, filled a cup with water, found his sketch book and painted. He painted with no thoughts of 'what if this goes wrong'. He painted with no thoughts of 'what if no-one likes this'. He put the brush on the page and made his mark, no hesitating, no doubting. As he mixed colours trying to find the best one for a volcano he talked about why Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear. He wondered if it was because Vincent thought he wasn't very good at painting. I watched him silently hoping that he would never lose his ability to create without fear of judgement, fear of being wrong, fear of self doubt.

Monday, 5 May 2014

granola :: recipe

250g rolled oats
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
25g sesame seeds
125g runny honey or maple syrup
3 tablespoons sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 150C/ Gas Mark 2. In a large bowl combine the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. I also like to add about 2 heaped tablespoons of milled organic flax seed. In a saucepan gently heat the sunflower oil and honey/maple syrup. Whisk them together so they combine and when they get frothy and creamy pour over the dry oat mixture. Mix this all well together. Put some greaseproof paper on a large baking tray and spread the mixture out evenly. Bake in the oven for about half an hour until golden. I stir the granola quite often as it’s cooking so that it browns evenly. And I add sultanas and dried cranberries and nuts when it is cool and ready to store. This is lovely with porridge and maple syrup and the boys love it with yoghurt and honey.

adapted from Monty and Sarah Don's The Home Cookbook

Sunday, 4 May 2014

a grand day out

The festival season has well and truly kicked off here. This bank holiday weekend it's the turn of the Drogheda Arts Festival so we took the boys to the historic town to watch some of the street circus performers. We loved the excellently moustached Star Man climbing up the rope to get a rose for his beloved (a blushing audience member who said to her son 'don't tell dad' when she got a kiss from the star man). Sir Edwin Longbottom also had everybody laughing with his juggling antics and buffoonery. We snuck in a visit to the Highlanes Gallery for their exhibition 'Re-framing the Domestic in Irish Art' but saved the best til last when we called into the Brown Hound Bakery for coffee and tarts...

The bakery is just on the edge of Drogheda town and is well worth tracking down. With dark painted walls, polished concrete floors, glass cloches and lots of quirky vintage touches you can easily while away a morning over coffee and papers. We've also enjoyed lunch there- they do fabulous parmesan and chive scones filled with vintage cheddar and apple relish or slow roast chicken with herby mayonnaise  (for example) but I think the breads, cakes, pies and tarts are possibly the stars of the show. The afternoon we called in there was a pop-up vintage shop run by owner Jeni Glasgow which had me wishing we lived a little closer to the magical Brown Hound. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

happy May Day

Wishing you a happy May Day! The first day of a new month and the beginning of a new season - let's celebrate with some flowers from the garden- cream and purple tulips, dusty hellebores, Solomon's seal, zesty green euphorbia all in a jam-jar and hung on the front door. Celebrating the coming of summer (Beltane) dates to pre-Christian Ireland when protective bonfires were lit and livestock were let out onto grazing lands. It's a pity that today couldn't be less summery- it's been raining all morning and it's decidedly chilly...I think the fire tradition might just be in order!

joining in with Littlegreenshed's Nature in the Home series