Thursday 25 June 2009

Summer in a glass

Take one lovely fellow blogger (Emma), a bucket, a pair of secateurs and some sunshine. Add to this the now obligatory jam doughnuts and drinks that accompany our little jaunts (this is by no means compulsory but advisory).

(Emma and her bucket)

Set out on a summer's morning with purpose in your stride and laughter in your hearts.
Fill the said bucket with the whitest, sweetest elderflower heads available. At this point, speaking from experience, we would advise the wearing of long trousers to avoid the masses of nettles that seem to protect every single elderflower bush we stumbled upon and the carrying of a stick/set of ladders (which fit neatly into your bag) to compensate for your lack of height and the fact that all the best blooms are as high up as a mountain top!

Stop for a while to eat the aforementioned doughnut, sip the shop bought elderflower cordial you brought along knowing that tomorrow you'll be sipping your very own brew.

Stagger up the hillside and stop to admire the many butterflies and wild orchids (again, this is obligatory as it adds to the sweetness of your drink). Spend a lot of time wishing you could make headdresses from elderflowers, garlands and wedding bouquets and wanting to live in the 1930s...

Arrive home and put the kettle on. Take cup of tea out into the garden and give those elderflower heads a good shake, Remember to count each head to ensure you use the right amount of ingredients, in our case things got so complicated that we almost wished for a calculator but thankfully help was at hand when we reread this wonderful recipe here, , thank heavens for imperial measures, it was all getting very confusing when we were dealing in kilos of sugar.

Into a large old preserving pan (preferably your mother's - thank you Mother of Mrs Sew Recycled) add enough sugar to rot entire family's teeth and those of any guests who happen to call. Add water and bring to boil whilst stirring.
Just when you feel your arm's going to drop off from all that stirring add flower heads (then scoop them out again as you have forgotten to remove acres of woody stem), lovely lemons and gold dust (I mean citric acid - it seems that you might be able to get your hands on some of this just in time for next year's harvest as there is apparently a national shortage, failing that, for a nominal fee I will reveal my source (!!!).

Cover with a clean cloth and leave to steep for 24 hours. During this time you might feel it necessary to stand in various corners of the kitchen sniffing the air as we did trying to work out whether we could smell cat's pee, lemon or somewhere the scent of elderflower ...
Return home and anxiously await phone call from friend to tell you that, yes, there is a distinct whiff of elderflower in the air.
Next day on return to friend's house stop off at baker's to buy some cake (just to enhance the flavour of the cordial you understand, but seriously contemplate any further visit to local baker's in disguise once you realise just how often you pop in there).

Arrive at friend's house, Put kettle on, have tea, eat cake and chat.
Momentarily forget why you are there and chat some more. An hour or so later, remember the reason for visit. Take bottles, try desperately once more to remove dried up orange juice that are in them, friend will hopefully mention foolproof plan of bicarb, rice and boiling water to do the trick.
Slowly begin to strain the brew into bottles and avoid sticking to everything you come into contact with as the liquid is just SO SWEET AND STICKY. Halfway through, have minor panic that cordial may just taste of cat's pee and/or you have discovered some kind of magic elixir as the pan shows no sign of emptying. Rummage around kitchen emptying bottles as you go to use for cordial. Half an hour later wonder at the vat of cordial that's on the worktop and think perhaps there really was no need to double all the ingredients.

Wash hands, wash worktop, wash floor, wash skirt, wash everything that has come into contact with this sugary delight. Take a bottle of fizzy spring water that your friend has just had delivered, dilute cordial and pour into glass.

Take into garden, spend a lot of time sniffing and giggling and have your first sip - summer in a glass, I promise.
After a few glasses convince yourself it's fermented and that you are now just a tad worse for wear, remember that of course it hasn't and it's just all those bubbles.
Return to kitchen, view once again all those bottles and wonder just how much you can drink ...
Lightbulb moment when you remember that all you lovely bloggers are full of culinary ideas and decide to ask for help. If you know of any way of using elderflower cordial, please leave a comment. There will of course be a winner, a snifter of our elderflower sunshine, some summer goodies will be posted off to you and Emma and I will have fun tasting all your recipes - sounds like a good idea ...

Saturday 20 June 2009

"tis almost fairy time"

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine."
Midsummer's Night Dream

Ssssssh, if you listen very carefully you'll hear the sound of the fairies wings, they're on their way, I'm sure. Whilst our gardens might not be full of canopied bowers and sleeping fairy queens, we will still find them here this weekend at the bottom of our garden.

If you want to know what we'll be up to then take a peep at this and this and if those fairies are giving you the run around then take a look at this and this (the sweetest fairy balm for the heart).

Happy Midsummer

Saturday 13 June 2009

More giant leaps for mankind ...

Late Friday night, three of us huddled on the sofas watching TV. Images appear on the telly of the first moon landing. Conversation follows about that famous day. Mr Roses turns to Big Sister and asks what was the name of the astronaut who first walked on the moon. To which I reply, having first consumed the compulsory couple of Friday night glasses of wine:
"Neil Armstrong-Jones" - Now I bet you hadn't realised up until now that a relative of the Earl of Snowdon was in charge of the lunar landing. Good to see my grey cells are still working ...
But wait it gets better ...
Big Sister then pops up with:
"That man who went with him was called Buzz Lightyear". (no doubt Mr Potato Head was in charge of NASA at the time).
Suddenly space travel becomes much more interesting ...
What's that saying? "Like Mother, like Daughter..."

Friday 5 June 2009


This week I picked two little posies for my daughters' bedside tables. Each different, each marking a "first" of some kind.
Ever since Big Sister was a tiny toddler, back in our old house, we would eagerly await each year the first rose opening in the garden. That first summer she went to the wall at the back of the garden where the old rambling rose grew and Mr Roses picked her up in his arms and she lent forward to pick her rose, sink her nose into its sweet scent and toddle back into the kitchen clutching her treasure. Each year the tradition continues, for many years the roses came from that old rambling rose - these past few years it has come from different roses in our new home.

This particular one has the sweetest, headiest scent and takes me right back to those seemingly endless summer evenings of my childhood. Early evenings spent outside playing with friends, riding on our bikes, skipping and most importantly, making rose petal perfume in jam jars of water. It is a smell I associate with my childhood home, summer, sunshine and all things lovely.

So this rose, once it starts to fade will join the others that Big Sister has kept and pressed in her flower book. Each one marking another summer, another chapter in her life and mirroring , I think the beautiful young woman that she is becoming.

The second little bedside posy was picked for Little Sister to welcome her home from her own very grown up adventure. Her first residential trip without us Roses alongside! Our house was strangely quiet without the youngest rosebud in it and I waited with baited breath for her return. This was a big one for us all, our "baby" returned happier, more confident, extremely tired and a little more grown up. The riot of colour that sat on her bedside table will I think be pressed too, to mark a very big and important chapter in our lives.

I'm not sure if our "babies" ever stop being our "babies" or our "first born" ever stop being our "first born". Of course the years go past and the flowers get picked and pressed and Big Sister now towers above me and the memories fill the once empty flower book but I know that certain things like that big beaming smile when Big Sister picked her first rose, or the triumphant smile Little Sister gave me when I collected her after her trip are as precious as the flowers that mark them.

Have a lovely weekend

Monday 1 June 2009

Meet the guests ...

We had some guests to stay this weekend. They arrived on Friday, thankfully arriving in time for the end of the half term and have been with us ever since, and, I hasten to add, have not, nor will ever outstay their welcome. You couldn't wish for a more delightful pair of guests, I'm only hoping that Mr Blue Skies and Mrs Sunshine (a marriage truly made in heaven) prolong their visit for as long as they can.

Somewhere in that expanse of blue is a vapour trail. When I was younger I would spend ages trying to work out where planes were heading, imagining their destinations. I must admit on grey wet days when I see those trails up above in the sky I wouldn't mind being up there ... but on weekends like this I've got to say that the view down here is not bad at all!

We finally got to the beach on Friday after days of rain and cold. Egg sandwiches, oreos, favourite reading books and suntan lotion packed in a jiffy and the car on autopilot down to the seafront. A lazy afternoon that saw us stretching and basking in the sunshine, smiling as we relaxed and listened to the waves lapping against the shore and dipped our feet into the briny blue.

That day saw the emergence of our cats into the garden. The Hinge and Bracket of the feline world had decided that is was finally warm enough to venture outside.

With temperatures exceeding those under the piles of eiderdowns they have been sleeping with these past few months they lived dangerously and sauntered into the garden. It wasn't too long before they needed shelter, carefully parting the poppies and nigella and trampling them into a leafy bed.

Just as well the neighbour's cat is doing the same on the opposite side of our garden, for once I have symmetry and order of some kind ...

In shady corners under the fig tree the foxgloves have come to greet our guests. Appearing almost overnight, their flowery stems stand tall and majestic.

We decided on Saturday to head out for the great open spaces. Thankfully Mr & Mrs Blue skies decided to join us. We walked over the Downs with friends, lifting our heads to the sky and lazing in the grass. A good few hours later we rejoined civilization in desperate need of one of these

and sat in the shady park to cool down.

With no sign of getting fidgety the sun shone again and the sky was at its bluest on Sunday. A special day, the first day of the year when we were able to eat breakfast, lunch and supper outdoors. A return to summer food and summer habits. Barbecues, salads, garlic, tomato, homemade pesto, garlic, basil, more garlic!!!!!

A spot of rockpooling on the beach in the morning where I have to say that the sun excelled herself and forced us into a hasty retreat home. An afternoon having water fights and reading the papers in the garden.

I hope you've had similar tales this weekend, I'm doing my best to make the sun and sky feel very welcome round here as I do so miss them when they've gone.