Stanmer Park

so Maude and I drove to Brighton this week, partly to catch up with friends, and partly to let Maude get some experience of driving on motorways.  I do remember how frightening it is even thinking about driving on motorways and I think that its actually got worst with the amount of lorries now delivering all the time.  typically the navigator took us all the way on the M25, which is definitely the worst road that I have been on.  didn’t help that we were in a mini which made us feel like sardines between all those overtaking gigantic vehicles!  anyhow, we managed to get there and back with only a few hiccups, not a great mother and daughter bonding time driving 5 hours on such heavy roads !   when we got there my friends took me to lovely Stanmer Park, only 15 mins drive out of Brighton, but beautiful woodlands and open lands and we walked the dogs.  there is a country house, church, walled garden, but I loved seeing the community gardens – allotments, flowers from Hearts and Flowers who have an allotment there,  and then there was a hidden garden which has taken over 20 years to cultivate, which was so spiritual – a dome of twigs which has grown perfectly into a perfect geodesic , walls made of twigs and branches, small shrines of stones….   it was like an Andy Goldsworthy piece.  our countryside is so vast and beautiful, there is always something new to discover.   Quince is another of my favourite shops selling flowers and some small gifts and of course there is Tidystreet where I am now buying all my lovely white dresses from – its as though Florence is choosing them especially for me.

 

rye bread

maude had a go at making rye bread – she took the recipe from Paul Hollywood –  as with all bread its a long process and rye takes longer to rise, but is delicious.

Ingredients

500g rye flour, plus extra for dusting
1tsp salt
2 tsps yeast
20ml treacle (optional)
350ml cool water
olive oil for kneading
Instructions

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the treacle if using and 3/4 of the water and turn around the mixture with your fingers. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time, until you have picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want dough that is soft but not soggy. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knewad. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft skin. You will find the dough feels different from a conventional wheat flour dough – less smooth and stretchy.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 4 hours.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Fold it repeatedly in on itself until the air is knocked out. Form the dough into a smooth round cob by turning it on the surface and tucking the edges underneath until the top is smooth and tight. Generously dust the inside of a large round proving basket (I used the same mixing bowl) with rye or white flour. Put the dough into it with the smooth side down.
Leave to prove for 2-3 hours; the dough will double in size eventually but will take considerably longer than wheat flour breads. Meanwhile heat your oven to 220C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up. Line a baking tray with parchment or silicone paper (I greased and floured a baking tray and it was fine).
When your loaf is risen, invert it carefully onto the prepared tray. Slash a deep crosshatch patter on the top with a sharp knife. Pour hot water into the roasting tray to create steam and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. To test, tap the base of the loaf – it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

ryebread

 

lily ponds

absolutely love lily ponds, there is something mystical and serene, thought provoking and calming.

the water lily is the national flower of Bangladesh, it symbolizes love and life, and is used in almost every religious ceremony. there are many instances in history where flowers have been given symbolic meanings according to the prevalent culture and era. the stunning blossoms are used as an adornment for ceremonies and celebrations.

this is Judy’s pond, where we used to shoot our ilovegorgeous campaigns – I do miss going there;  always looking so different during the seasons, but still always tranquil.

Father’s Day

did you know that father’s day originated in America in 1908 to originally commemorate the loss of 210  miners, who were fathers in west virginia.   now it complements mother’s day and is celebrated in many countries throughout the world.  Robert likes it because he always gets more chocolates, today he got a set of printed cards by Robert Hardy  which I found in Margaret Howell, which he absolutely loved and a collectors edition of Royal Mail stamps of James Bond!  For some reason, I have a bit of a soft spot for those lovely packs of collector stamps!

i loved this rainbow that greeted us in st agnes cornwall a few years ago.

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queen anne’s lace

I love this flower which grows in abundance along the country lanes of england, did you know that its root is edible and it is in fact a wild carrot.   sometimes its known as Bishop’s lace or Bird’s nest.  It represents sanctuary.

Queen Anne’s Lace is said to have been named after Queen Anne of England, an expert lace maker. English legend tells us that Queen Anne challenged the ladies of the court to a contest to see who could produce a pattern of lace as lovely as the flower of this plant. No one could rival the queen’s handiwork. She however, pricked her finger with a needle and a single drop of blood fell into the lace, that is said to be the dark purple floret in the center of the flower.

nature has some of the best designs that is replicated over and over again in our everyday lives.

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a repost from Mexico

so today is Robert’s birthday and we are remembering the wonderful trip that we had this time last year to celebrate his big birthday.  as travel is a no no at the moment, it makes it even more mournful as we have always gone somewhere to celebrate, whether it be a night in a hotel, dinner in a restaurant, or some exciting new country.   so instead here we are at home with most of the family –  getting a take away – and a beautiful cake made by Maude.   we can do double celebration next year……

Reposted from June 2019

our next stage of the trip was a one hour internal flight to Oaxaca.  neither Robert nor I had been there before, but it came highly recommended.  typically our mid morning flight was cancelled and we had to reschedule on another airline – travelling is never easy and this actually happened to us before in Mexico.

we arrived in Oaxaca to peace and calm;  the whole town is low rise except for the beautiful churches;  and surrounded by mountains.   renowned for its arts, crafts, textiles and pottery it really is picture perfect.  it also doesn’t feel too touristy, though we were not there for the weekend, which I think makes a difference.  we stayed centrally in an old converted convent Quinta Real – which in its time was also a prison, a school and since the late 70’s became a luxury hotel.  the rooms are old style, and perfectly fine, but what is stunning are the cloisters, gardens and balconies and courtyards.  there is also a beautiful old laundry in one of the courtyards with its old stone bowls.

we would walk down to the main square and through to the mercado, which was full of crafts, spices and locals selling their food and wares.  you just have to walk around and soak in the colour and daily life – whats amazing is that locals still seem to be buying and selling amongst themselves;  of course there are tourists too, but it really feels like the origins of life  – communities coming from the local outlying villages to sell their wares and bring home food for their families.  strangely although the streets are busy there is always a calmness and serenity – a haven from the madness of Mexico City.

there are lots of places to eat. we were recommended Origin, La Pitiona (which has a great roof terrace with views all round) and Casa Oaxaca, but these are more led towards tourists and wealthy Mexicans – who also seem to be visiting their own culture.   the standard of food is very good, but you still have to be careful as its easy to get an upset tummy.  we were pleasantly surprised by the simple and beautiful design of Oaxaca from everything to their architecture, interior design, table wear………  lots of locals still wear their national costumes for everyday wear, not just to attract tourists.  its nice to be romantic about this way of living, but in reality most of them are relatively poor, bringing not just their wares, but their young families onto the streets, whilst trying to make a living.

we took a walk up to the the cultural museum, Santa Domingo de Guzman where there is an incredible collection of wares, retelling the history of Oaxaca through its crafts, jewellery and figurines.  helped by the discovery of a treasure chest of jewellery found in one of the tombs in the church;  its not only interesting, but housed in an incredibly beautiful building overlooking the most exquisite cactus garden.   you can visit these wondrous gardens, the Botanical gardens and I highly recommend it;  its a guided visit, but so calm and serene in there, with amazing succulent plants.

shopping wise, there are probably too many stalls and workshops to choose from, but you will find some lovely artisan pieces.  we brought an empty bag anticipating that we would bring back some things, which we surely did.  we found pots in Collective 1050, Tiendita del Barro, which sold the lovely black and terracotta pottery.  I bought a lovely embroidered top from Ambar 5 de Mayo 408.  woven scarves from la cash de las artesanias, Andrea cruz Bernal. a skirt and baskets from la Plaza Artesanias de Oaxaca Matamoros 103 – you really just have to wander and stroll into the numerous courtyards and workshops.

also worth visiting is the private collection of one family – Museo Belber Jimenez- a beautiful collection of jewellery and clothes housed around a courtyard house.  there are so many galleries to wander in and out of.  if you have time, which we didn’t manage – there are lots of day trips to the local artisan villages – some making pottery, textiles, wooden carved animals, – choose your route.  there are ruins to see too, but I would recommend the ruins outside of Mexico City, Teotihucan.

it became our daily ritual to amble to the main square and see the different activities – on our last day the local school set up stage and gave their own show of singing, performance and playing instruments;  I will miss the locals dancing impromptu in the streets, the mariachis waiting to entertain and serenade, the selling of wares and the passing of giggling school children.

the saddest part of Oaxaca is seeing the young girls sat on the sides of the streets with their young babies and children seeing food and money…..  it seems hard to escape people living on the streets wherever you visit in the world…..

re – cycle, re anything

there are lots of places around the UK on my list to see once we can travel again.  I really must get to northumberland one day to visit this homewares shop that i have heard about – anything from vintage plates to lamps,  quirky, pretty, functional, RE cycled or RE markable!  the great thing is that you can order from re-foundobjects online too!  lots of interesting ideas.

I also love this shop Baileys Home – a few years ago, my friend and I drove all the way there and stayed the night in a B and B just to visit this beautiful shop.   They are now open and are stocking my flower cards again – just sent the order this week.  I do think that we need to support all these independent shops in these difficult times – my worry is that we are only going to be left with the big chains….

 

Qigong

so after 10 weeks of lockdown, I have discovered new forms of exercise.  a friend introduced me to Katie Brindle, who is a Chinese medicine practitioner, who loves to promote the health benefits of traditional Chinese beauty and healing techniques, but making it fun and easy to do.   Some may find her morning Qigong too lively and chatty, but its a fun way to the introduction of Qigong and its principles and as she talks a lot about all aspects of Chinese health and myths, you learn a lot.  Very strange that at this ripe old age, I am rediscovering my roots.  I used to see my step father do these exercises and kind of giggle; and at the community centre for old Chinese, I see my mother’s colleagues waving their arms around and now totally understand what they were doing.  I think I have spent many years running away from my heritage, trying to be more western and blend in, that I have totally overlooked these wonderful practices.   However, if you are really looking for that calming meditative practice, I would highly recommend Mimi Kuo Deemer who has a lovely aura about her and she shows all the different Qigong moves in her You tube videos – she also teaches online at Triyoga.   I have done her meditation class before lockdown and she really is a lovely teacher.  once we are able to visit classes in person, its my intention to start Quigong classes with her.  I also did a course for the 12 rivers practice with Arron Collins Thomas, who teaches you a sequence of moves that work on the 12 organs of the body;  its very dancelike and the moves work on the meridians associated with each organ, which are very beneficial for energising, protecting, clearing the body and the mind.  Its a perfect regime for now, to protect and nourish your system and building up your immunity. Once you have learned the moves, you can do the whole sequence with warm up within half an hour.  I have to admit, I have done a combination of all 3 teachers, depending on my mood, every single day for the last 5 weeks, and I really do think it has helped me get through all this massive change.  my mood is less temperamental, I have definitely been less grumpy and panicked about the future and some of my minor aching symptoms have dissipated.  I don’t know whether its mind over matter,  but I feel its definitely helping me.   also take a look at Long White cloud, lovely Qigong there too and apparently the teacher of both Katie and Arron. .

Robert and I still do our 12 min breath meditation with Clare Connolly each morning on waking – and this definitely starts our day in a relaxed state.  I have also downloaded the steps app and strive to do the 10K steps,  about 7.5 km for my bodyweight, but its not always possible – its also annoying that you have to carry your mobile around to monitor it – am desperately trying to get off all these devices;  there are pros and cons with technology, but spending so much time on them is definitely not good for your posture and mind.   Once we have some normality to our lives,  I really don’t know how I am going to fit this all in once normal life resumes – I guess I will pick and choose what to keep up, or maybe I will just do a little of everything.

I have taken to practising my 12 Rivers on the terrace just before bedtime – there is something calming about doing this in the open air and with the sun setting.