I remember last year round this time we went to admire the foxgloves in Fishpond Wood, today we were met by a sea of bluebells. It was a great display and the woods looked magical. I can’t believe I used to drive for miles to see bluebells when they are just a short pleasant stroll from my house, and it’s all thanks to a fellow blogger who revealed the secret location!
Needing some colour I decided to cycle to Isabella Plantation to see their vibrant blouse-y rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. I didn’t expect much as we are about a month behind, last year in March the place was so full of colour it was like a slice of paradise. Even though I don’t particularly like rhododendrons I do appreciate their strong hues at this time of the year to the point that I have two in my garden. Camellias are very beautiful but my favourite of the bunch must be magnolia trees, I might get one this year.
So was Isabella Plantation in full bloom? No, not really, of course there are the heathers looking pretty and then a whole lot of green. Freddie and I got adventurous and walked off the paths and then to my delight I saw a big rhododendron in bloom. As we walked on there were more of them and some camellias too, and even one small magnolia. I got my colour fix and left satisfied. I will be back in a couple of weeks time to appreciate this garden in its full glory.
Freddie stuffed my bag full of fallen blooms and admired his treasures when we got home.
Remember that wonderful weather we had a couple of weeks ago? No? I had to look at some pictures to remind myself, it seems like a distant dream with this horrid rain. Enough now, it’s June!
Wimbledon Common looks stunning in all seasons so we went to hide in its cool shade and pick some cow parsley and elder. The elder didn’t last long so the cow parsley got paired with pink stocks, it looked really nice.
I thought it was never going to happen, every weekend between mid April and now was rainy and grey but now we have a new way of deciding on outdoor activities: wet or dry. So dry it was or it was supposed to be because it started to rain as soon as we arrived at Banstead Woods. Just as we entered we were welcomed by smell of wild garlic and then we saw the bluebells, meadow after meadow they looked stunning next to the fresh greenery of the leaves and silver birch. I forgot my camera so these are taken with my phone. I do hope I can go back next year to admire them in better weather but I am glad I managed to see some of them.
Saturday was such a sunny and warm day that Freddie and I decided to go for a walk in Wimbledon Common which starts literally behind our back fence. The leaves crunched and our path was peppered with mushrooms. Hubby did some painting so it was better for us to stay out so we walked enjoying the views and fresh air.
We crossed river Beverly and headed up towards Wimbledon Village, it’s a great 30 minute walk especially in autumn when it just looks beautiful.
Coming to the top of the hill there are some amazing houses and a good pub – stop for a drink or lunch after the brisk walk.
Enter the Village – again amazing houses, cafes and shops including Matches, Space NK, Whistles! and soon to open The Kooples.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself, I am very lucky to have such beautiful woods on my doorstep.
The weather has been fantastic, life looks much better after the dreary winter. I went out without a jacket, that’s something!
Walking around my neighborhood I felt inspired to take some pictures.
We start our tour in my street aka Wisteria Lane. It is a very quiet street where everyone knows everyone else, even if you don’t (like me) you still say hello.
Then we cross the road and enter Richmond Park, there is a long wait at the crossing and usually someone starts a chat. I met two people this way.
In the park you see bunnies.
Pass by the Beverly River.
Run into some deer.
You take a long nap.
Maybe hard to believe but it is still a London postcode.
Picnic with friends in Richmond Park sounded like a great idea for a hot Sunday afternoon. I decided to contribute with individual fruit tarts.
The pastry recipe was from Jamie Oliver’s first book, I always get bit scared not to overwork it so usually it comes out too crumbly. I think this time I came pretty close to the real deal. My little tart shells baked and got decorated with fruit and jelly. I never poured jelly into pastry cases before so obviously I didn’t think about putting a layer of egg white on top. The jelly set beautifully overnight but it also soaked through the shells so the tarts became soggy and definitely not picnic worthy.
I had plan B, as I made a lot of pastry I had enough for a whole fruit tart so I set to work. I almost got it rolled out in one piece and it almost landed perfectly in the baking tin. I think I am close to getting it right, just need to practice a bit more. It is a very satisfying thing.
This time I sealed the pastry, whipped some cream and arranged summer berries. It looked very pretty. It lacked few mint leaves but I could not find any in the supermarket (damn you Pimms drinkers!).
The next challenge was the packing and wrapping. Cling film was used heavily and the tart landed in my basket. We set off to Richmond. But 20 minutes into the ride the cream started to melt and as the tart was right in front of me I was getting more and more stressed about it. In despair we stopped to buy some ice, the tart was placed on top of it and somehow we made it to the park. It wasn’t as spectacular as the original but it tasted very good indeed.
Today we took our bikes on a train and headed for Chawton, a picturesque little village in Hampshire where Jane Austen spent few years of her life before she got ill and moved to Winchester where she died soon after. In Chawton she reworked Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility and wrote Emma, Mansfield Park and Persuasion.
Jane Austen House Museum is a 17th century house which gives a great insight into the author’s life. The house itself is beautiful and it is surrounded by a large flower garden where Jane and her sister Cassandra would sit.
The trip starts in the bakehouse and kitchen.
The interiors are very simple and humble, Mrs Austen and her daughters were left with very little money and the only help came from Jane’s brother who married well.
To my delight the house was full of costumes from last year’s adaptation of Emma.
A quilt made by Jane, her mother and sister.
The house is full of paintings, illustrations, manuscripts and things found under the floorboards. It is also decorated with simple flowers throughout which makes it look alive and fresh.
Flowers of course came from the garden.
The museum shop is pretty impressive with a unique editions of Austen’s novels. I am contemplating purchasing these.
Opposite the house there is a lovely little tea room, Cassandra’s Cup.
A charming little place serving lunch and tea. I could not resist the Victoria sponge and a glass of refreshing lemonade.
The tea room has got a charming yet wacky interior with over 200 cups hanging off the ceiling.
Feeling refreshed it was time for a country walk which inspired many of Jane’s novels. Walking through it takes you right back to her vibrant descriptions of nature and taking exercise.
We met some pretty horses.
Chawton has got some intellectual vandals.
The village itself has got a large manor house, a rather spectacular church and a lot of houses have thatched roofs creating a perfect English scenery.
A truly lovely day out of town.
I woke up to a rather grey Saturday morning. The sun is still a bit shy but it is definitely getting milder outside. Snowdrops and crocuses are everywhere making the dull wet grounds colorful and the daffodils are nearly in bloom.
I got a lovely parcel from my friend in Amsterdam – a box of Easter eggs. The Dutch Easter eggs are especially nice, hopefully they will survive the next 3 weeks.
The worst thing about this part of the year is lack of good fruit and vegetables. I am so fed up with all the roots, cauliflowers, cabbages and apples that lost their sweetness. It is still some time before we have all the lovely spring peas, chives, radishes and strawberries. I decided to re-subscribe to Abel&Cole and my first seasonal box is arriving on Friday, hopefully this will stimulate my imagination as they often have things I am not even able to find at my local farmers market.
Last week I got some Jerusalem artichokes and decided to make a warm salad.
The artichokes were roasted for 45 minutes at 180°C with thyme, bay leaf, olive oil and some salt. In a separate tray I roasted some hazelnuts for 10 minutes to make the bitter skins fall off. The artichokes and hazelnuts were combined with rocket, fennel and vinaigrette dressing. I suppose there is still a tiny small room to get creative.
And of course we baked bread again, this one was spectacular, the best one so far. It’s so important to keep going and experimenting, making mistakes is a part of the learning process after all. We made 2 large sourdough loaves, I think our work colleagues will be sampling it on Monday.
The bread was slightly moist, chewy and full of big air bubbles, the nutty flavor was there and the crust was superb. Long proofing time is really the way to do it.
I truly don’t think we will go back to buying bread ever again. Baking is a very enjoyable process and I love feeding the starter, it is like my pet. I had a bit of a comedy moment this morning when the starter fermented so much it popped the tupperwear lid up and spilled out of its container. It is a living creature.
Today is the first proper spring day, the sun is shining and I could feel its warmth on my face. In our bid to discover as much of South West London as possible we cycled down to Tooting Bec Common.
It’s a fantastic common with large green spaces and little bits of wild, lots of brambles and gorse, duck ponds, an outdoor café and the wonderful lido.
When I walked in and saw colorful changing rooms and a blue sheet of water reflecting the sunshine I was speechless.
Dating back to 1906 when it first opened it is the 3rd largest lido in Europe, the largest in England, open to members every single day of the year and to the public from the 24th of May till the end of September. I will be sure to go this year.
I used to go to an open air swimming pool in Amsterdam every week, it didn’t matter if it was cold or rainy, once I was in the water it felt wonderful.
Back at home I am having a fantastic Gaskell time. Two exciting books just hit the shelves: David Eggers’ Zeitoun and Nancy Mitford’s Wigs on the Green. The latter has landed in my mail box already.
Somehow my book pile has managed to grow again and as work is busy (animating dog food and shooting commercial with UK’s favorite pop princess) I don’t get that much time to read. Better get back to it!