Monday, June 23, 2014

Petworth's Secret Gardens

I'm wondering if it's a sign that I've finally reached middle-age when my idea of a good afternoon is wandering round other people's gardens looking at plants! So be it.  It's been a gloriously warm and sunny weekend in London but halfway through Sunday morning we remembered that there was an open gardens afternoon in Petworth, Sussex, organised by the Red Cross to raise funds.  Off we went and arrived a little early, so just had to repair to the pub in the square to sit it out.  Anyway, you basically pay for your ticket, get your little map and off you go - like a grown-up treasure hunt.  You can walk the entire 'course' which takes in a wide variety of privately owned gardens, from grand sweeping lawns and terraces with views over the downs and the Shimmings Valley, to tiny courtyard gardens bursting with colour and innovative planting schemes that make the most of the space.  We got to wander down narrow alleys, peep behind old brick walls and discover lanes and higgledy piggledy houses and gardens that we never dreampt existed.  I took rather a lot of photos too, so here are some to whet your appetite.

{A Rectory, Almshouses and the old School House}

{Lots of the gardens had separate vegetable plots...I loved this one with the box hedging}

{The smell in almost all the gardens was intoxicatingly sweet from all the old-fashioned roses}

{A poppy bud just about to burst}

{These frothy peonies reminded me of paper pom-poms}

{Most of the gardens sported a water feature of some kind, or other decorative elements designed to please the eye}

{A wealth of beautiful plants}

{I loved seeing all the different seating areas/styles - all designed to maximise views or create a special place to be still}

{This beautiful old house boasted the largest tree I think I've seen in a long time}
It was a wonderful afternoon, so thank you to all the lovely people who shared their gorgeous gardens with us.  It's already in the diary for next year!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Blueberry-Lavender Icecream

When the sun is shining there's nothing better than a scoop of delicious ice-cream, especially if it's homemade!  We are so lucky that it's quite easy to find good quality ice-cream in the shops, but for a special occasion it adds something if you make your own.  I'm a bit of a lavender fiend and have experimented with this Lavender cocktail and this Lavender hot chocolate and with a hot weekend forecast for London over the next few days, I thought it was time for a lavender desert.  

  • 3 cup(s) heavy cream
  • 1 cup(s) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon(s) dried lavender flowers
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup(s) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup(s) blueberries
  1. Make the ice-cream base: Scald the cream, milk, and lavender flowers in a medium saucepan. Remove pan from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Fill a large bowl halfway with water and ice and set aside. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan and heat just until it reaches a boil. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until they become thick and pale. Whisking constantly, add the hot milk in a slow, steady stream to the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly using a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon -- about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat, strain, and cool completely in the prepared ice bath. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  2. Make the ice cream: Process in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in the blueberries. Cover completely by placing plastic wrap directly on the ice cream surface and store in freezer for up to 1 week.

Have a lovely weekend...

image: Town&Country

Thursday, June 12, 2014

House Envy - A Tuscan Farmhouse

I'm sure that in a previous life I lived in Italy. Whenever I've been there I feel so completely and utterly at home; at peace and content in a soul-kind-of way.  It feels like something inside begins to unfurl, relax and relinquish and everything seems familiar and just as it should be.  One of the best times of my life, for many reasons, was a holiday that I took on the Umbria/Tuscany borders.  It was an old, old farmhouse that was perched at the top of a hill at the far end of a wooded valley.  Built of golden tuscan stone, it stood alone with four terraces falling away down to the pool and pergola.  Every day was full of sunshine and fantastic food, laughter and fun.  All my favourite people were there too and it stands out as a truly magical few weeks, helped along by the fairytale turret that our bedroom occupied, the view stretching out along the valley.

Every evening my sister and I would sit by the pool as the sun went down.  Dangling our feet in the water we would open a bottle of prosecco and toast the end of another beautiful day.  Only when the fizz was gone would we get up and begin to prepare dinner.  At dusk, as the sky began to darken, every night, the haunting sound of a flute would drift up to the house, carried on the silent night breeze.  It was an enchanted time and I cherish the memories, holding them very close to my heart.  So, when I saw these pictures in Elle Decor I was transported back and thought I'd share them with you, so that you can dream too...

images: Elle Decor

Friday, June 06, 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful

Mizzle, clean sheets and tea

1.  After days of being cooped up in the house we decided to just do it.  On with the wellies and raincoats to walk in the Sussex countryside.  It wasn't even raining properly, just a steady mizzle of spray.  As we walked through the woods towards the lawns the smell of the earth was strong and comforting, and small children, undeterred by the weather, sat on the grass with a picnic.

2.  To wander into the bedroom and find that the cleaner has changed all the bed linen.  Pristine and smelling freshly laundered, the bed is made up like a hotel room.  All straight and smart and covers turned back.  I slip under the sheets and it is such bliss to be in the clean, cool caress of cotton.

3.  To remind myself that it's still more than okay to have a slow start to the day; to drink my tea and ponder what the day may bring; to dream a little and let my imagination loose, as written about here