Thursday, 17 November 2022


Over half term, we spent a very relaxing few days in Dorset with all the family to celebrate my Dad's recent big birthday. The kind that ends in a zero. It was absolutely wonderful and I had been looking forward to it during all the long, busy weeks at work in September and October. 

There were fourteen of us altogether and we rented a big barn conversion which came with a pool and games room - it was perfect. The grandchildren (six of them, aged between twelve and fifteen) had so much space to spread out and even managed to separate themselves from their phones for a short time.

Many of the adults also enjoyed the games room, although some found that they were not quite as good at pool or snooker than they remembered they were. Apparently the table was wonky.

The house was on a working farm (you had to be careful of the chickens when reversing) and the view from our bedroom window was utterly charming, with a shepherd's hut, alpacas and a donkey. 

The local village was picture perfect, with old rectories and thick, wooden doors tucked away into old stone walls. 

Despite it being one of our neighbouring counties here in Hampshire, I don't know Dorset very well. We mostly drive through it to get to Devon or Cornwall. Well, silly me, because it is beautiful with such a perfect mix of ruggedly dramatic coastline, rolling hills, tiny Miss Marple-style villages and towns with a tempting array of shops.

Some of the best parts of the trip (apart from all the big meals together in the house and family time) were:

Walking along the coastal path between Durdle door and Lulworth Cove.

Durdle Door is magnificent. I could have watched the sea crash away at the arch for hours, it really is beautiful.

Shaftesbury was lovely. I had really wanted to visit as it is home to The Botanical Candle Co. , who I have been following on Instagram and buying from for many years, so it was nice to visit their actual shop. It is also home to famous Gold Hill, or "Hovis Hill" as it is nicknamed, due to it featuring in a Hovis bread advert many years ago.

We spent such a happy few hours in Shaftesbury. As well as the shopping and exploring, we ate pasties for lunch and I found a bakery that sold Lardy Cake (a local sweet bread that is delicious and impossible to find anywhere now) so of course I had to buy some of that. Then, in a lovely waffles and gelato place I spotted this ice cream flavour, which I had never heard of before. Sea buckthorn - sometimes called seaberry - is a wild berry which grows along the coastline. It tastes like orange starburst, the lady in the shop told me, and she was right. 

Naturally I had to try some of that, too. It was like a creamy sorbet, orangey and sweet but with a slightly sour tang too, which was completely delicious.

There was also a very good Oxfam book shop in which I bought a few treasures.

Finally, one of the unexpected highlights of the trip was Bovington Tank Museum. Now, I was not remotely interested in visiting but John and Angus were, so we went and it was absolutely brilliant. Not so much the rows of tanks, they all look the same to me, but the excellent WW1 and WW2 exhibits, especially the parts about local people from the area and the stories they could tell. 

Angus was in his element, reading every single piece of information and availing himself of all dressing up opportunities. I love that he is still game to have his photo taken while looking ridiculous. 

It was one of those breaks when, despite only being a couple of days, you do feel yourself start to relax. While there I finished a pair of crochet socks, sewed more of my patchwork quilt and mended my jeans for the thousandth time. I read a magazine and finished a book. Things I never get time to do at home.

We are all now very much hoping that my Mum wants to do something similar when she celebrates her own big birthday next year......

Sunday, 30 October 2022

October: dahlias and pumpkins

Hello there! I hope everyone is well. We are keeping busy, trying to distract ourselves from the political chaos and generally depressing state of affairs here in the UK. Just trying to keep our heads down and avoid switching on the heating until absolutely necessary. Fortunately distractions come in the form of work and a half term break, which we've just finished, and it's been so warm that we haven't needed the heating on yet anyway.

October started off extremely well with a weekend trip up to Leeds to see friends. One of my best friends, who moved to Australia round about the time we moved down here, was visiting and we had a little reunion. We went for a big lunch and a little walk in the dales, at Malham Cove, then spent the evening drinking wine and chatting about life. On Sunday we caught up with other friends, drank coffee, chatted. We met when our babies were born, through the NCT, and now we are all navigating the teenage years together.

Yorkshire was as stunning as ever, even under grey skies, and it was so good to be back and see much loved faces. 

I drove up on Friday night and back on Sunday afternoon. It was a lot of driving but I had The Thursday Murder Club on Audible to listen to in the car (which I highly recommend). 

Work has been particularly busy this half term so I have tried to spend the weekends doing simple, enjoyable things. 

I got myself ready for autumn. I packed away all my summer clothes and brought back out the autumn and winter things. I had a good sort out while I was at it, filled a bag with things for the charity shop.

I chose autumnal shades for my nails.

I gave corners of the house a little spring clean and re-fresh, changing displays to make them more seasonal.

I don't consider jobs like this housework. Rather, little tasks like this, with the radio or an audiobook on in the background, are incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.

There have been many walks, as always, some longer than others. The landscape is slowly losing it's colour and the quality and colour of the light is changing, even if the temperatures stay resolutely mild.

The dahlias have been a joy in the garden this autumn, They only really got going in September and I have picked so many. 

Some of them can hardly hold their weight up, so many blooms do they have.

I have been picking them and bringing them indoors as often as I can.

This little bunch, below, I picked just a couple of days ago. As you can see they are starting to look a little rain-battered and rough around the edges, but they last for a couple of days and are so pretty. 

Reading continues to be a great pleasure. These two books are Book Club choices for November and December. The Crossroads is a huge book, I'm going to have to download that on audible too if I want to stand a chance of finishing it.

My Boston fern is looking absolutely beautiful at the moment. That is nothing to do with autumn, I  know, but it was looking quite poorly a couple of months ago with many brown fronds. I cut them all off and moved it from our bedroom to the bathroom, definitely the coolest and dampest room in the house, and it is thriving,

Mushrooms are growing on the lawn, always a sign of the changing seasons. I spent many hours in the garden yesterday, tidying up, cutting back and planting bulbs for the spring. Soon I will lift my dahlias, trim any greenery and store the tubers in mesh bags somewhere cool and dry, ready to replant next spring.

We lit our first and, so far, only fire of the autumn. Although not cold, it was a rainy day and it felt cosy. 

I got the crochet pumpkins out....

and bought some in the supermarket to decorate the table. In a couple of weeks they will all be roasted and thrown into soups.

Continuing with the pumpkin theme, Bella and I made gingerbread with our new cookie cutter.

We had lots of fun covering them with fondant icing and making them look pretty.

As well as all this happy pottering at home, we have recently returned from a short break to Dorset. It was beautiful and I have lots of photos which I'll save for another post. 

Wishing you all a good week.