Sunday, 27 January 2013

Lemons, Lacewings and Lacock

On Thursday, yesterday and a little bit today...we had sunshine!

I had wondered whether this good news was sufficiently exciting for a blog update on its own, but when has anyone ever known me to stop talking just because I could...or should???

Let me start with a 'thank you' or two and a question:

1) Thank you Toyota. My little Aygo blue slept under a thick blanket of snow for almost a week and still started first time!

2) Thank you Richard Carter. I had seen mention of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, but rather thought I had missed it and then saw Rich's reminder on Facebook yesterday and have spent a happy hour this morning counting the birds in our garden.

3) Question: Why am I such a softie (fool), that I am sitting on a hard wooden dining chair typing this, while Max dreams and snores on my nice comfortable work chair??? I know I should chuck him out to get some fresh air, but he looks so cute and cosy...

Goodbye snow!

The snow started disappearing a few days ago. Even the little bit of extra snow we had Tuesday evening didn't really impede its departure. The first sign it was on its way out was when I spotted that my snow cat had morphed in to Barbapapa!

snow cat becomes Barbapapa

This morning the rain and wind overnight had completely chased away the last patches of icy white and the world is again green (and somewhat soggy). All that is left to show that the snow cat was ever there is the lavender stem whiskers lying on the garden table...sniff, sniff.

WI Book Club

I think I mentioned before that I joined the Bath WI (first meeting of 2013 is the week after next) and I had an email about their book club (which, it turns out is organised by the nice lady who's garden backs on to ours) and I decided it would be nice to get to know some locals better and to be encouraged to read books I might not have thought of before. The next meeting is on 20th February and, anxious to be sure I had finished the book before then, I started reading Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child (snow seems to be a theme at the moment!). Oh my!! It's a wonderful book and I couldn't put it down - I had forgotten the luxury of putting on some music and just reading for a couple hours. So, not only have I finished the book weeks in advance of the meeting, but I so loved the story and the imagery I looked in to the books which inspired Eowyn Ivey to write it and I have downloaded Arthur Ransome's Old Peter's Russian Tales to my Kindle and ordered on eBay a copy of the original The Snow Child as retold by Freya Littledale (not sure what I will get as it was £143 on Amazon and £2.76 on eBay!). 

The added bonus of joining the book club is that it has prompted me to join the Bath library - who knew that these days you can download books from the library! (thanks for the tip-off Tamsin!) 

Aaarrrggghhhh...ooh, actually not so bad

You may have spotted in some of my photos my gorgeous blue and white cups, a gift from my friend Irene. I loved them so much that when I saw the same range in Shannon in Bath, I bought a couple of the larger size cups...and last week I dropped another mug on top of one and chipped the rim! I was gutted. However, it makes a lovely pot for the penstemon cuttings the old lady next door took for me, and not only did Mark buy me a replacement one, I also got a matching bowl and small plate! I am a big fan of breakfast and like to make it a bit of a starting the day ritual. I guess all's well that ends well!

new use for chipped favourite mug

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

The Big Garden Birdwatch is organised by the Royal Society of Protection of Birds and asks people to watch the birds in their garden for an hour and log on the website the largest number of the different species they saw at any one time (to avoid duplication). My results were:

  • 8 blackbirds
  • 2 magpies
  • 4 starlings
  • 16 house sparrows
  • 1 robin
  • 1 wood pigeon
  • 2 coal tits
  • 3 blue tits
  • 2 great tits
  • 2 crows
  • 2 chaffinches
  • 1 greenfinch
  • 3 goldfinches

I was surprised by how many blackbirds there were - and they were getting feisty over the rolled oats; I suspect they are also fighting over territory as we usually have blackbird nests in the hedges. There may well have been more sparrows than I recorded - it sounded as though there were hundreds - but I just included the ones I could see to count. I often see blackcaps and thrushes and sometimes a tree creeper, but not today.

Lemon and fig marmalade

As promised, I made a batch of lemon and fig marmalade using the recipe in Gloria Nicol's book 'Fruits of the Earth', she has a similar recipe on her Laundry Etc website.

As the sun was shining on the last bits of snow as I sliced lemons, I thought it was an opportunity to practise photographing food and took my bowl of lemons outside to catch the sunlight reflected off the snow.

lemons in the snow

It was a good idea, until Rio decided to see what was going on! (It's ok, I moved him quickly so the marmalade is free of cat hair)

Rio the cat investigates lemons

I was quite happy with the results - despite my furry helper.

lemon slices in the sunlight

lemons and figs soaking

 The finished marmalade is totally lush (as they say in these parts) - tart and sweet at the same time.

lemon and fig marmalade in the snow

Illuminated Lacock Abbey

 Now I had every intention to stop here for the week. However, as I was finishing up, Mark appeared (we may live in the same house but still manage to occupy different time zones), so we went out to make the most of the sun - just as well as it is now blowing a gale and raining cats and dogs. Apologies if this entry is too long, but Lacock was lovely (as always) and I have to share! The exhibition at the Fox Talbot Museum was Jo Whaley's Theatre of Insects - and I cannot resist photos of bugs! I had never seen photos quite like them...have a look at the link. It was also the final day of Illuminating Lacock Abbey; the beautiful mediaeval cloisters were subtly lit and were totally stunning. I am not sure the photos do it justice, but I tried...

illuminated stone floor
Some of the lights were like stars or snowflakes; quite magical (appropriate as some Harry Potter scenes were filmed here).
daytime starlight 

ghostly footsteps moving as you watch

colour-changing cloisters

now it's green!
Lacock Abbey Cloisters

My favourite was this wall - so atmospheric; a place of calm and tranquility.

words of peace

 One little girl was as mesmerised as I was, and added her shadow to the shadow words on the wall.


We also went in to the old brewery, no longer brewing but beautifully lit, partly by sunlight and partly artificially.

old brewery, Lacock
The lights looked so much like fire and water.

brewery lights

Outside, snowdrops were harbingers of Spring.

snow drops

carpet of snowdrops

That really is it for this week - all that's left to do today is to enjoy the boeuf bourguignon bubbling away in the slow cooker.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the bird count. The marmalade looks and sounds great, must have a go!

    1. The problem is I could lose a lot of time just watching our feathered friends.

      I love making anything that involves a preserving pan...guess I never quite grew out of wanting to be a witch!

  2. I don't know where to start; I LOVE your writing! AND your photos. And I am sure I would love that marmalade too!

    As you know I have two e-readers, one kindle and one iriver, since I cannot borrow e-books from Swedish library to a kindle, but to an Iriver I can. It's great! Really convenient.

    Thanks for the reading tip, I'll have to look that one up!

    1. Thank you!! That means a lot to me!

      I have lots of jars, so perhaps we could have some on toast for breakfast when you visit! (You are welcome to take some home with you too, if you have space in your bag - but I don't want to over-laden you)

  3. Hello Sue,

    Thank you for visiting my blog - here I am on yours!

    Snow, marmalade, insects... are we long lost twins?? And as bloggers go, we are next door neighbours.

    I thought the mud looked very pretty when it was hidden under the snow.


    1. Hi Muv - lovely to 'see' you here! I have already added your blog to my favourites - fascinating stuff. Twins indeed!

      Once the sun is up, I will be busy photographing my new sewing machine...