Sunday 31 May 2020

'Ta dah' in May

Well, even in pandemic times there can still be ta dah moments at the end of the month - and not just the 'I successfully gained 6lbs in weight' kind.  Ahem.  Let's move on ...


My first Ta Dah is really my grandson's achievement - but I'm going to claim some involvement.  When it was his birthday I bought him a butterfly raising kit.  It is a little collapsable net container in which you hatch butterflies.  At the beginning of lockdown I sent away for the caterpillars to start off the process and a few weeks ago a pot of caterpillar food with five tiny caterpillars arrived.  I handed them over to him to nurture and he's been keenly watching their progress from tiny caterpillars, to larger hairier caterpillars, to chrysalides and finally fully grown butterflies.  He's fed them fruit and leaves and yesterday was the day when they were ready to fly off into the wild.  My daughter filmed the great release and it honestly brought a tear to my eye to see the pure wonderment and joy in his little face as they fluttered, flew to the top of the container and then tentatively flapped their wings in the fresh air before taking their first steps of freedom into the garden.  

It's been a fabulous project and he has loved doing it.  If you are ever looking for a different kind of present for a small child, I'd really recommend it.


I've read a lot of books this month.  Firstly our book club's choice of In Five Years  which I enjoyed, and showed that although you may think you have a five year plan, you sometimes really can't see what may be round the corner. Then I read The Sister in Law - set in sunny Italy, was great to read while sitting out in the sunshine in the garden, made it very easy to transport myself to the location.  Something totally different was Verity which actually made me gasp at the end - I do like a book which keeps me on my toes!  Finally, The Other Wife  which makes me wonder if all this lockdown is leading me back to psychological thrillers!  

I'm not just reading books but I am still learning Spanish on the Duolingo app on my phone.  Haven't missed a day yet ... 

By the time we're allowed to leave the country (and return without going into 2 weeks quarantine) I should be able to make myself understood.  At the very least I'll be able to book a table in a restaurant (if they are open) order a meal and drink, and get us booked into a hotel.  Anything else will be a bonus!


My oven's been busy this month too.  I'm trying to 'only' cook one cake a week but it seems the more I bake, the more we eat ...

Coffee and walnut sponge - I froze half to save us from eating the whole thing!

I went into overdrive one day, rock cakes and a Victoria sandwich cake on the same day.  I promise you that half of the rock cakes were put straight in the freezer.

Chocolate cake with raspberry jam and butter cream icing - I actually gave a quarter of this to Rachel to save us from too much temptation

Something savoury for a change, cheese scones

Lemon and poppyseed loaf

In addition to all this, I've discovered how easy it is to make flatbreads and that means that a meze lunch is very easy to throw together to eat on the patio now - especially as I've tweaked a recipe for hummus which is so easy to make.  Ruth reminded me of how delicious beer bread is and I've also discovered a new way to incorporate lemon sorbet into an amazing pre dinner gin cocktail.  Did I mention about my waistline increasing by the day?  

Thursday 28 May 2020

Moving on ...

... I always felt that going into lockdown was going to be easier than coming out of it, on so many levels.  Trying to get our head around the fact that a teeny tiny bit of freedom may be just around the corner has me with mixed emotions - I'm so excited by the prospect of a little more normal life returning and a little bit anxious about how safe that will be.  I think this poppy in the garden yesterday sums it up perfectly

You can see it is almost making its bid for freedom.  Petals fully formed, straining against the protective pod that it's been hiding inside for weeks, having a little taste of fresh air, but not quite ready to burst into new found freedom.

Unlike me though, this morning I woke to find that it has shaken free and embracing the next stage!

I've found the normality of blogging a calming distraction from the craziness going on around and it makes me realise what a lovely community our group of bloggers are.  When I first started my blog as part of joining in a scrapbooking course run by Shimelle I didn't realise that years later, some of those original bloggers would still be in contact.  In fact recently I've received two lovely pieces of 'happy mail'

One very clever and appropriate post card from Ruth and a hand made card from Rinda (who has fallen by the blogging wayside unfortunately although remains on other social media). Rinda was the organiser of the first photographic scavenger hunt that I took part in, and whilst that no longer happens, I am thrilled that someone else has picked up the baton and this year's list was published this week on Patio Postcards.  Please do pop over there and print off the list, it's such a fun summer project and although we will have to stay closer to home to find things this year, it makes the challenge even more fun!  

In other news, cake of the week this week is lemon and poppyseed, I've used all the advice on Ruth's postcard

In the interests of my waistline I just have to remember rule number four - Serve just enough ... portion control is key!

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Where we are spending our time

I thought I'd share a little viewing of where we're spending most of our lockdown time at the moment!

We've been so lucky with the weather so we've mostly decamped to the garden

Just look at the colour of that sky!  No filters involved and not a cloud to be seen.  It also appears that my hair is becoming blonder as the days unfold - which is weird because I've never been blonde before - perhaps it's just a different tone of grey?! Either way, I seem to match the tips of Coco's ears, what is it they say about dogs looking like their owners?

We decided to shower Coco yesterday as she was looking a bit grubby, so we washed her, dried her a bit in the house and then let her out in the garden to finish drying in the sunshine.  Her first reaction was to disappear into the foliage of the flower beds and start digging a hole - all our hard work spoiled in five minutes!

Would you like to see the garden?  I popped out there after breakfast to do a quick video to show you where we spend our time, I didn't think to put the cushions on the patio furniture so you'll have to use your imagination there!

Last night I discovered the perfect drink to enjoy while sitting out there enjoying the evening sunshine - a Saffron Sundowner.  Our friend's son is part owner of a local ice cream company based in Saffron Walden.  They make the most delicious ice cream and sorbets and  I found this recipe on their website.  First you take lots of ice, add 50ml gin, 80 ml sherbet lemon sorbet and 150ml tonic water.  Blitz until combined into the most refreshing, delicious flavoured drink, add a slice of lime, relax and enjoy.  

I'd love to invite you round to try it, but it may be some time before we can have more than one visitor at a time in our gardens!

Saturday 23 May 2020

Tales from the sofa

Or should that say 'tails on the sofa'?  Because that's where I've been spending most of my days.

I've realised that my humans must love me so very, very much because they can't bear to leave me on my own anymore.  Seriously, they used to leave me protecting the house on my own at least once a day, but weeks have gone by now without them both being out at the same time and I have to say I am loving it.  

Yesterday I got to have three lovely long walks over the park.  THREE.  The son of my humans arrived with his own little human and it was suggested that we all went for a walk.  I'd barely got my breath back from my post-breakfast trip but you know me, I'm never one to turn down a chance for extra walkies.

I have had a couple of personal appearances since I last wrote a blog post.  People do love to see my little face pop up on a Zoom call, I've even been a guest on an exercise class.  Although I have learned to leave the room now when I see my female human walk in the room wearing lycra leggings and a belly dancing skirt.  That's a sight that no-one needs to see.

I've been doing a bit of a work-out in the garden myself

Here you can see me doing keepy-uppies with an ironically named 'Paw Patrol' football.  Actually it's a trick of the camera angle but it does make it look like I have perfect ball control!

Keep safe and keep well everyone, and if you are lucky enough to have a little furry friend (even if it's a cat) make sure you stay home as much as you can to let them know how much you can't bear to be parted from them.

Coco 🐶

Monday 18 May 2020

Discovering what we've missed

Sometimes you don't realise exactly how much you've missed something until it comes back.  I mean, I knew I was missing seeing little baby Max even with daily photos and a weekly zoom family chat, but it wasn't until this turned up on my doorstep on Friday

that I realised just how much I'd missed seeing him in the flesh (even from a safe 6' distance!) and I also realised I can't call him little baby Max anymore, he's a sturdy ten month old almost-toddler now!  It absolutely made my day to be able to walk over the park with them and have a proper chat and I hadn't appreciated that although I thought I was feeling OK, there is a big difference between OK and good.

Another very 'minor in comparison' thing that I discovered I'd been missing was a traditional Sunday lunch. I have been busy sourcing new recipes and ways of using up random kitchen ingredients, and it's been absolutely weeks since we had a normal proper roast Sunday lunch.

Roast lamb, baby Jersey Royal new potatoes, broccoli, carrots, leeks and homemade Yorkshire pudding, it was so nice to have something traditional again.  Even better, there's enough leftover lamb to make a lamb and chickpea curry for dinner tonight!

Another thing that we knew we were missing was a haircut - well now one of us (not me) is looking much tidier since our daughter let me borrow her hairdressing scissors.

I don't honestly trust Paul to cut my hair, I'd rather wait until I can have it done properly but  he was happy to let me loose on his {after all, there isn't much hair to work with in the first place!} and I am pretty pleased with my efforts.

So all in all, we are starting this week feeling a little bit better and remembering that we are now another week closer to getting back to 'normal' - tiny steps at a time.  Keep well and keep safe everyone x

Thursday 14 May 2020

More questions than answers

I had hoped that the TV statement from the Prime Minister on Sunday would not only show us a clear description of the next 'phase' of lockdown, but address a lot of the speculation that is going on at the moment.  I'm not sure that it did!

It feels like a lot of what we were told is open to misunderstanding - or interpreting the new rules as you would like them to be.  Life was in some ways easier in the morning when the rule was strictly, go out, have exercise with people you live with, up to an hour a day but it must be somewhere that does not involve driving.  

Which was not a problem, here we are enjoying an early morning dog walk in the sunshine, five minutes walk from our house.

Yesterday I had a message from our son - 'Can I come and visit you on Friday' - well, as if he had to ask, of course he can, we haven't seen him for weeks.  But now we're thinking that according to the new rules, you can only see one person from outside your household at a time, in the open air, but not in your garden.  So does he have to drive here, then one of us will go for a walk over the park with him, and then come home so we can swap and the other one can do the same?  Who knows?  That is probably what we will have to do and if it's the only way of seeing him, then I am more than happy to 'tag team'!

In other news:

Cake of the week is coffee and walnut

And the plants we are growing indoors from seed are thriving

I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to the threat of an overnight frost being over and those runner beans can go out and stay out in the garden, I'm fed up with having to see this every time I go to the utility room to use the washing machine!

See those seedlings on the draining board?  Todays job is to repot them into individual pots ready for transplanting them into the great outdoors.  That should keep us busy - we'll have earned a slice of cake after that!

Keep safe everyone!

Saturday 9 May 2020

Fizz in the afternoon

Drinking prosecco at 3 in the afternoon, Winson Churchill giving a speech on the TV - it can only mean one thing 

The 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

We didn't have a street party with everyone 6ft apart, but we still felt part of it by having a slice of Victoria Sandwich Cake and a glass of fizz.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Currently in May

Joining in with Anne at to share what I am currently doing this month.

Well, I am learning to speak Spanish via the Duolingo app on my phone.  I've always wanted to learn to speak Spanish and now is the perfect time to do it!  I have a tiny bit of conversational Spanish that I've picked up on holidays but apart from being able to book a table in a restaurant, order a meal and pay the bill, I wouldn't say that I could hold a conversation.  So it's just five minutes a day per lesson and you can do as many lessons as you like, until you make 4 mistakes and lose all your hearts!

Like everyone else, I am missing my family.  I think it almost makes it worse knowing that Rachel and her family are just 10 minutes walk away and Jon and his family are just a 30 minute drive.  But we must stick to the restrictions and no matter how much we want to see each other, it would be so wrong to break the rules.  The more we stick to them, the sooner the hospital figures will come down and maybe the government will relax some of the restrictions.

I am actually loving trying new recipes or remembering old ones that I haven't made for a while.  We are trying to only go to the supermarket once a week and I am relishing the challenge of making a week of meal plans, compiling a comprehensive shopping list and then doing just one weekly shop.

We haven't been told to wear face masks yet here in the UK, in the understanding that while they may stop you from spreading germs to others, unless they are worn correctly, are the right type, and washed as soon as you return home they may give you a false sense of security.  However, it just felt right to make some so that if the rules suddenly change, we are prepared.

I have just finished reading a book that I chose myself rather than one set by our book club.  I am a fan of Christobel Kent and I am reading The Summer House.  Her books are often set in Italy and she has a way of writing that transports you to those idyllic locations, so your imagination is free to travel even when you can't go in person!  But I am currently reading this month's book club choice which is In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.  I love the idea of being in an online book club, it is encouraging me to read books I may not have chosen myself, if you fancy joining in too, there's always room for one more person!  Pop over to Leslie's blog to find out more.

Sunday 3 May 2020

Sentence a Day - April

April began with the whole country in lockdown.  It all seems a bit unreal and like something out of a novel, there's not going to be many tales of going out, holidays or socialising this month, how will we fill our days?  Let's see ...

Day 1  We really are lucky to be able to take our daily dog walks in pretty surroundings and plenty of room to follow the restrictions on social distancing

Day 2 Leo has painted me a beautiful rainbow picture to display in my front window

Day 3 Online Happy Hour get together with my Zumba class

Day 4 Gloriously warm day, planted up some seeds in some homemade seed pots and in the evening had a go at making our own pasta - needs improvement but scored about 7/10

Day 5 Another lovely sunny day, Sunday lunch, long dog walk and started a new jigsaw puzzle

Day 6 2nd week of lockdown - Our son came to pick up the power washer and some garden tools - we left them in the front garden so we did not come into close contact - seems so weird not to be able to hug your family.

Day 7 Did a Zumba work out in the morning and gardening in the afternoon - got the patio furniture cushions out for the first time this year

Day 8 More gardening, it's starting to look really tidy out there!

Day 9 Another Zumba work out today - did a virtual pub quiz via youtube in the evening - what did we do before Zoom?

Day 10 Good Friday - mowed the lawns in the morning and read on the patio most of the afternoon

Day 11 Saturday - hardly anyone around when I took Coco for a walk this morning, arranged a virtual evening chat with our friends

Day 12 What a strange Easter Sunday, just the two of us - so much for us having a very special Easter this year to make up for 2019's Easter. (Last year Rosie had to go to A and E on Easter Sunday and then be admitted to hospital for about 4 days with a very scary blood disorder)

Day 13 3rd week of lockdown - Today went by quite quickly, not all days do at the moment, and we watched the film 'Witness' in the evening, although we'd seen it before we'd forgotten how good it was.

Day 14 Virtual Zumba class again and virtual quiz evening with Paul's badminton buddies in the evening.

Day 15 Paul went to the supermarket with a list of a week's worth of shopping, the sight of a full fridge made me feel very happy!

Day 16 Virtual Zumba in the morning, cooked and froze some Beef Bourgignon for Sunday lunch - it needed half a bottle of wine so needless to say there was also wine with our evening meal tonight.  

Day 17  I won £25 on the Premium Bonds!  Not a life changing amount but a little ray of sunshine to brighten the day.

Day 18 Tried Jamie Oliver's recipe for 'scruffy aubergine lasagne' this evening and it was delicious

Day 19 Almost finished painting our bedroom/ensuite - it will be so nice to have that project finished.

Day 20 4th week of lockdown starts today  - felt a bit 'down' when I woke up this morning so decided to wear some bright clothes and put some make up on to make me feel a bit better - it worked!

Day 21 Rumour has it that we may soon have to wear face masks when out in public so I downloaded a pattern and made a few

Day 22 Heard the shocking news that my friend was in hospital having had a heart attack - thankfully a minor one and they will be discharging her as soon as they can but still very worrying.

Day 23 Virtual Zumba class - our teacher told us that she has been told that exercise classes and gyms are going to be among the last things to reopen so I think it's going to be a case of dancing in the lounge for a long time to come.

Day 24 My sister fell over the hose pipe in her garden and has broken her wrist and sprained her ankle - so no more hour of exercise for her for a little while.

Day 25 Look who we bumped into on our afternoon dog walk - this is about as close as we are allowed to get!

Day 26 Sunny Sunday, lunch on the patio, got a text message to say our dog groomer is allowed to open a restricted service so Coco's appointment next weekend can go ahead as planned!

Day 27 Made a loaf of beer bread, so easy and so delicious

Day 28 Had a video message to show us that baby Max has learnt to crawl - another milestone reached.

Day 29 Had a bit of a down day today, think it was prompted by learning that the husband of one of my Zumba class had died due to Covid 19 - it really can hit anybody at any time.

Day 30 Today it poured with rain - can't remember the last time we had weather like it - dog walk was considerably shorter this afternoon!

Ready for the video?  Here it is ... April in 30 seconds!

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