Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Summer's Day in Hunstanton, Norfolk

The sun has finally made it through the clouds and it has been a glorious week so far.  A little too hot for my liking and with the sticky nights that British heat tends to offer, not much sleep either!  But, it looks as though the Olympics opening ceremony will be dry.  I used to live near Stratford in East London so to me the area looks so alien and I wonder if the community spirit will continue once the Olympics are over.

I have taken a couple of days away from work this week so the first day was dealing with the chaos of my home now that the kids have had a couple of days off.  So after a hard first day and with the house looking clean and fresh we decided to take a bus trip to Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast.  Its nickname is 'Sunny Hunny' and usually when we visit it doesn't live up to its name but today it certainly did!  Usually we do this by car but I fancied a change and also it teaches the kids how to get out and about on their own.  We boarded the bus and went on a two hour (!) journey through beautiful villages and grey skies, but as soon as we got to Sunny Hunny, the cloud broke and, at last, a beautiful beach day!
Not just on the beach...the water sports were in full swing...
The Wash Monster was very busy.  This was manufactured in 1967 and was used by the US Forces to land in Vietnam.  Once you get out to sea you then meet up with another boat and then go on to see the seals further out.

 It then drives up onto the sand to pick up more passengers.  But look, sand and colourful windbreaks!

Then there are the pony rides...my two feel that they are too old to be seen to be doing this anymore, but it did look tempting...

 Look at this, ponies, sand, sea, swimmers, water sports - what is going on!!  Is it summer??!!

 Then there are the rides around the town... 
And then the fairground...
The colours are so beautiful and vibrant against a blue sky, rather than grey!

Luke and hubby then went off to swim in the sea whilst me, Bex and Mumsy went to our favourite...the 2p machine arcade...

...and here is the booty I won...

Don't ask how much we spent on getting these 'treasures'!

But then, all things have to come to end, so it was time to get some momentos and say goodbye to the beach until the next time...
Get back on the bus and drive past the wonder of Norfolk Lavender, somewhere I am yet to visit but the smells of lavender and the gorgeousness of the purple fields brings something beautiful to the senses.
As soon as we got home, it was time for a drink and to put up my little momento of my trip on my favourite window, a beautiful white wicker heart to hang against the blind.  I know, should be shells etc, but I fell in love with this as soon as I saw it in the shop. 
And now, after a very lovely family day, it is time to sit back and catch some of the Olympic Opening Ceremony...but just a little more hooky first!  I love the blanket I am working on, even though the warm evenings are making it a little bit too warm.  And I love my pergola in the garden when I have the tealights on.  The stillness of the night and candlelight is so relaxing and allows me time to reflect (the ladder is there as Luke sits on the top which is covered by jasmine, figs and a vine - his quiet space!).
Have a good weekend x

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Walk Along the River at Spalding

Well the summer holidays have now begun.  Six weeks of trying to juggle work and entertaining two teenagers, no mean feat!  And, wasn't this the worst thing when summer holidays started?  Straight away every shop had 'Back to School' emblazoned on the front of their windows.  My philosophy is get it out of the way right at the beginning, the shops are full with items, the children still have the teachers voices and school bells ringing in their ears rather than the end of the holiday where anxiety kicks in the new year, homework and hoping they get their favourite teachers.  The satisfaction of everything ticked off the list (I love lists) and then just to enjoy the rest of the time off with them. 

Looking out of my window this morning I saw a rare sight...SUN, and blue skies!  It looks as though the jet stream has finally moved so that we get some warm sunshine at last.  This will mean I can finally do the 'spring/autumn' clean!

But first a nice trip into Spalding with Bex.  The sun had disappeared behind a cloud for a little while, but it was lovely to go across the bridge without an umbrella.

 It was as though the flags were out for the blue skies!!
 and, how lovely to see some youngsters enjoying the sun!

When we got back from our little drive the sun was well and truely out and it was great to finally take some pictures of the flowers in the sun!!

 Everything is so overgrown now due to not being able to get out and prune, so making the most of the dry spell to trim everything. 

We also went to a wonderful place called Butters where you can get some really cheap plants, those that you buy in other leading retailers at a fraction of the cost.  I bought this wonderful plant for only 4 pounds!  It has given a cheery flash of instant colour to the front of the house.

 And as for the trimming, this is Coco after her trim!  She was exhausted at the end of it...along with me!
Have a wonderful weekend everyone xx

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Updating the Shabby Chic Greenhouse

A dry day, a plan that was in my head for weeks, the satisfaction of the quietness and being able to complete a job.  Yes!  At last, the staging in my greenhouse is now white.  The difference was amazing.  Still many small jobs to get the greenhouse just right, but I thought I'd dress it a bit just to show the menfolk on their return from fishing, just how a greenhouse can be 'shabby chic'd'.  I put my summer bunting up to brighten the sides and above the back door to the greenhouse and watched my hubby's face.  The reaction was good...thankfully.  I am hoping that this will spur him into clearing the plants that have had a huge growth spurt around it.



SO PLEASED!!!  Still some way to my perfect shabby chic greenhouse, but I have come so far.  So satisfied!
The summer holidays are about to start for my two.  I am taking odd days off here and there during this year's holiday.  Working for a wonderful place as I do, this is possible and so I have been filling my evenings on how I can surprise them each week.  The summer holidays are far too long and my two get bored so quickly.  My plan is to get the dreaded uniform shopping out of the way at the beginning so I don't depress them near the end of their holiday.  So the rest of the time can be for their enjoyment and rest.

So happy that I have completed one job on my list.  Oh and by the way, the sun shone today!!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Baking Day

The rain was ridiculous today, relentless, cold and falling like stair rods.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this type of weather.  I truly love the cosiness it brings to my home and that the family are all together.  But, it just hasn't stopped over the last few weeks.  Just brief spells of warm sunshine and then guaranteed rain.  This is my garden this morning, mid July, the splashes of colour that usually cover my garden with cheery loveliness are spashes of more water!

So, with the housework done yesterday on a day off from work, I decided today would be 'A Baking Day'.  I went on the BBC Good Food website and found this recipe for some tasty triple cheese and onion muffins.
My Luke helped as the weather was even getting him down.  There's lots of ingredients going in but the result was absolutely delicious!

The wet ingredients

The dry..and lots of cheese!

Ready for the oven

A gentle mix

Ta Dah!
The savoury done, now was the time for raspberries and white chocolate!!  So with the bread in the oven and dolmades rolled and cooking slowly on the hob, time for some yummy sweetness!!

Again, this recipe was from the BBC Good Food website.  This website is really good as you can create an account and save your recipes in your own binder.  It's also good as you can read everyone's comments on how to improve the recipe.  This time Bex joined me.  Mention chocolate and she comes running, especially as she had spent a day at Cadbury World yesterday...Heaven!!  So with the ingredients for raspberry and white chocolate muffins, we set to work.

 The raspberries redness added real warmth to my day!
 So easy and so scrummy!!
 So with savoury and sweet muffins, freshly baked bread and freshly baked soda bread...and the dolmades still bubbling away, I have had a very very productive and enjoyable day in my corner of the house.  I had some lovely quality time with Luke and Bex, and then a bonus....
...The sun came out...albeit very briefly before the next storm.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Making a Start

After looking at my poor neglected greenhouse, I bit the bullet and braved the elements and emptied it!  Not popular with the man folk in my house, I piled the fishing gear, tools, bikes etc and just as the heavens opened...again, I left them to it.  The day was incredibly dark so just thought I would make sure everything that was left was meant to be in there and then swept up.  I am full of ideas now that I can see the surfaces and the glass.  Because of the rain and then sun, the plants have gone mad around there so the next day where there is some respite I will chop these back to make sure the greenhouse gets as much light as it can.  Then, some of the glass will be replaced and I will then use some glass sealer to make sure there are no drip drips from the roof.  Once cleaned it will be time to start painting the staging.  A plain wood at the moment but will soon be a clean white.  I also started looking through the pots and decided to go for my favourite pinks, greens and white.  Making it feminine so that the men folk will leave well alone!

A little way to go yet, but just getting the 'non garden things' out was so satisfying!

Also during the weekend my poor mumsy was left with all her cards as the fete was cancelled due to the weather.  So these came to work with me to see if anyone would like a bargain hand made card.  These were greatly received.  She is so talented but so disappointed that the craft fair didn't go ahead.

And the rain continues.  My plants love it but I so want to get everything tidied up.  I am going to start buying winter vegetable seedlings and clear the way for these as it won't be long before Autumn knocks on the door.

One good thing in the garden is the vine. This has been twisting and turning its way through our pergola for about nine years and has now extended it's amazing tendrils to in front of our garage. There are grapes beginning to form but my favourite part is the large, lucious leaves.
Each year I cut the larger leaves and then parboil them for about a minute and then make mine and Bex's favourite dinner - dolmades. This is from my school days when I used to go to my friend's house for lunchtimes and she would share her Greek/Cypriot mother's cooking. The taste was amazing, it was so different. The flavour of the vine leaf is a little bitter, but offset by the herbs, rice and meat. I can never get it exactly as she did, but the recipe I use is this:

20 larger vine leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
500g pork mince
50g long grain rice
1 small tomato, chopped small with seeds removed.
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
a pince of ground cinnamon
625ml hot chicken stock
a small knob of butter

1.  Parboil the leaves in a large pan of boiling water for about one minute until the leaves go to an olive green.  Drain and pat dry.
2.  Heat oil in plan, add onion and garlic and simmer until the onion is soft.  Add to a large bowl.  Add the uncooked mince to the bowl, uncooked rice, tomato, herbs and cinnamon, add salt and pepper and mix with your hands making sure everything is well combined.
3. Take a small amount, about the size of half your palm and press together with your hands making a small sausage shape.  Please this at the base of the vine leaf (vein of the leaf facing you) and then fold the side of the leaf and then roll to the top enclosing the filling.  Put this at the base of a large pan.  Keep doing this until the parcels are closely placed together at the base of the pan.  Pour over the stock and dot with the butter.  Put a small plate on top of the parcels to make sure the rolls do not come apart and then simmer covered for about an hour or until they are cooked through.

I usually serve it with a salad, lemon juice and some home made chips cooked in the oven with garlic and onions in the roasting tray.

This is so moreish, and I always make extra so we can have some for lunch the next day. I also freeze the vine leaves after they have been parboiled so that I can use them during the winter. You can also freeze them after putting the parcels together but before cooking them.

I have also been making my own bread, as there is nothing better on a cool, wet day than breathing in the smells of fresh baked bread. 

I have been sitting in my favourite chair in the evening, pretty much as I would in Winter, crocheting a granny blanket.  It is taking about an hour to do one line!  But it is gradually getting bigger.  I keep thinking of the projects I need to do in the house before winter sets in again, such as finishing the utility room and the bathroom but have resigned myself to doing this in August when I will also start washing all the soft furnishings ready for the 'winter clean' before Christmas!  I'm already getting ready for this!!

I have also started a Pinterest Board which I will put on here when I work out how to create a suitable link.  At the moment I am gathering pictures of shabby chic greenhouses.  There are some absolute beauties out there!

Also, as it is Friday and the end of the week, I have been busy dodging the rain drops and collecting flowers for any containers I can find to bring them into the house where myself and my family can enjoy them.
I love my Peace Lillies, they always give such a grand show.
And my beautiful 'Geoffrey Hamilton' Rose.  This is my absolute favourite!  So much so that I now have two plants in the garden!!  He was an amazing gardener.
I was so determined to get as many flowers in the house that I have even used a 'shot glass'!!  This one contains my Grandmother's lavender, a pink, mint and the gorgeous smelling jasmine which is trying it's best to open up it's flowers, but with no sun it may just go to sleep and come back again next year.

Let's see what the weekend brings xx

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