Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Sky and River in Constable Country

Early this summer we made a family list of all the things we would like to do before summer drew to a close.
Well, today is 28th August and we finally got around to taking Frank out on the River Stour in a rowing boat.
We are all huge fans of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and love the stretch of water between Dedham and Flatford.
One can walk along the river from the pretty village of Dedham to Flatford along the Stour Valley.
One side of the river is in Essex and the other in Suffolk.
It is our go-to family walk for any occasion.
Once in Flatford there is the water mill and a fab tea room and cafe (always a winner!). The mill was famously painted by John Constable (and by this I mean he painted a picture of it not that he whitewashed it!!).
And if you have a look at his paintings he took such care over and put such detail into his skies. Big billowing clouds, shades of grey, blue and purple.
Wonderful stuff.
These pastoral scenes have become a little over-exposed as they have been used for placemats and tea towels and ties, much like Vincent's sunflowers.
I don't think it is fashionable to love Constable but as he painted the beauty of my home county I feel a great fondness for his work.
So, as you have a look at my two men in a boat, look also behind them to the trees, the willows dangling into the water and that big Constable sky.

They loved it.
Frank, of course, wanted to row and those huge oars weigh a ton for him so he resorted to sitting at the front and either shouting "Ahoy" to other people heading up the river or calling out "Fire the cannons" at them instead.
I sat smiling and hid behind my shades ...
We docked the boat back at the launch jetty and about three seconds later (with no exaggeration) the sky opened and it rained like mad for as long as it took us to run to the van!
We picnicked and steamed the van up as we dried and then drove home via McLaughlan's for sweetcorn fresh from the fields.
A lovely kind of day.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Eight and Fifty-six

What is going on?
August is speeding by and I can barely keep up!
Living with a lively five year old keeps me on my toes and we have been enjoying long days out and two big celebrations this past week, with more to come soon (my Mum turns 80 next weekend).

In no particular order we have celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary and Andrew's (56th) birthday.
He looks good on it, hey??
Our wedding anniversary was spent enjoying (vegan) pancakes for breakfast and a lazy family day just hanging out together.
For Andrew's special day we spent time at our friend's beach hut on Mersea Island. The photo above shows his (vegan) chocolate cake, which went down a storm and tasted so good with the sea air. But then doesn't everything taste better with sea air in it?
Frank decorated the top and took great care with the berries and candles.
I went to my first Knitting under the Willow at the Natural Dye Studio in Hollesley, Suffolk and bought some amazing yarn. My friend Jan and I both cast on an Ishbel shawl on the day but I am not convinced I am up to lace knitting yet.
I'll give it a go though.
And the 30 Day Vegan continues.
For a couple of days I had withdrawal symptoms for my strong English tea with milk and then my head cleared and I feel fine.
The course is one I would very highly recommend as it is very supportive and I have to say I have been blown away by how easy I have found the transition.
Heather is very generous with her information and I have learnt to "crowd out" my diet with all the good stuff.
So, rather than focus on what I am not eating I fill my tummy with loads of wholefood goodness!

The blueberry breakfast loaf has been a staple here and I love it with almond butter.
The quinoa tabbouleh is yummy too.
And I have even managed to complete Andrew's Christmas jumper (yes, last Christmas before anyone asks).
I don't think I will go back to tea with milk. I feel so well not eating dairy products that I might just have a little Greek yoghurt (we have a brand here called Total and it's just too yummy to not eat!) and a little cheese here and there. Fish I miss but not as much as I expected.
It is proving a really eye-opening experience and is definitely helping me with my mid-afternoon energy slumps.
The D is mostly behaving itself but it never lets up, does it? The nights are long but I have made my peace with that. It was, however, a bit of a shock to spend time on our wedding anniversary looking at the wedding photos. We each had years and years of good nights' sleep like regular folks and we looked great! Na ja ...
Tomorrow sees the fantabulous return of the Colchester Free Festival so we will be cycling into town to enjoy some kiddo crafts and stories and then some live music from local bands.

Love to you all for a happy and peaceful, and safe if you are on the East coast of the USA, weekend.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I met up with a fellow blogger this week: the lovely Anna of Parallel Lives.
We began reading each others' blogs and e.mailing after she read a comment of mine on another blog and worked out that we live just 20 miles from each other. For a while we were e.mailing and commenting away and then it seemed strange not to meet.
I mean twenty miles! It's so close as to make it almost an insult not to meet.
So, a few days before that start of the 30 Day Vegan I contacted her to say I was going to be in Manningtree to stock up on wholefoods and suggested we meet for lunch.
So, we did. And two days before going Vegan for 30 days I had a yummy lunch of three cheese rigatoni and chocolate hazelnut torte with ice cream!
Oh, my it was good.
But not as good as seeing a familiar face from a familiar blog walk in the door.
After the initial weirdness that surely all bloggers meeting up feel of "I know all about you in so many ways and yet I have no idea who you are" we settled in with our heaps of melted cheese on pasta and began to talk.
And talk.
And talk.
On the drive home I kept thinking of things I had forgotten to ask and hoping I hadn't waffled on too much about Diabetes.
And then just one week later we met again in Frinton for a day on the beach and I met Anna's gorgeous children and fab husband. Frank was immediately taken under the wing of Anna's son, Johnny, and played on the beach with Livvy whilst watching Anna's eldest, Abi, playing in the sea. They were all such easy and engaging company.
What a lovely, lovely family.
And my mind is still spinning with things I want to ask and talk to Anna about.
I have read before about D-parents meeting up and of how lovely it is and this was just the same. We were friends before we met.
And just like I look forward to a friend's next post, I also look forward to seeing Anna and her family again.
Blogging rocks!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Getting the kitchen in order for 30 Day Vegan

OK, so I caved and have returned before the beginning of September!
It turns out I only needed a couple of weeks away from the computer to feel much restored and ready to share my little kitchen with you as I prepare for taking part in Heather's 30 Day vegan course/Summer camp.
I have been sprucing up the kitchen in preparation and have had a great time spending my evenings sorting and pottering.
This is my pantry door. It is more than 100 years old and I salvaged it from a friend.
She used it as the door for her dark room, hence the holes in the top!

And inside it is now tidy and clean.
The spuds from the garden are in the basket and I even harvested all the garlic the other day and strung it ready for use (just in case anyone saw that huge garlic string and thought we maybe had vampire problems here in Essex!)

And I even had a yummy vegan lunch today of corn tortilla chips and peach & apple salsa. This time of year we get about a three week window of tasty, juicy peaches and then they just don't do so well.
I love fresh peaches and intend to make this salsa a lot.
It was so tasty. The meal was finished off with a slice of Nigella's Apple Syrup upside down pie (not vegan but very tasty, though too sweet even for me, and I often cut the sugar in her recipes).
And tomorrow we begin. 30 days vegan. I have yet to 'fess up to the group that I have two big hurdles in this month: one is my Mum's 80th birthday and she loves cheesecake and the other is that we go on holiday about six days before the end of the course to Alkmaar in Holland.
Not only is Holland the land of cheese but Alkmaar has a famous cheese market and the holiday apartment we and our lovely friends are renting is called "At the Cheese Market".
Snowballs in hell spring to mind!

Happy August to all.
I will endeavour to catch up with all your posts very soon.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Taking a Break

We are having such a lovely summer (yes, not enough sleep, blood sugar mostly behaving but with the usual curve balls lobbed at me every day or so) and I am finding it hard to get to the computer.
Add to this, Frank managing to break my beloved camera by dropping it on the garden path! It now makes a sad kind of squeak when it gets used and takes very fuzzy photos indeed. He has decided that is fine for him and so, in his quest to be a wildlife cameraman, he spends a while each day taking lots of pictures of his orcas and shark toys and then showing them to me at high speed.
I need to get organised and get a new camera. It has surprised me how much I miss taking pictures of our days. And the weather over here is just so lovely, the sky so blue some days that the photos would be fabulous!
It's actually a bit too hot for us and we spend part of each days shade hopping and drinking iced water.
Life is good and I am going to sign out for August to enjoy every moment of it.
I am still reading all my beloved bloggy friend's words and will comment as much as I find time for.
Have a fantabulous August and I will be back at this space on 1st September with a summary of our month.
Love to all!

P.S. I am sorry for freaking you all out over my previous post! Perhaps I won't tell you all the story of my Dad playing Hide and Seek with Frank and then just getting distracted by the washing or some such domestic thing and just leaving Frank hiding and not mentioning it to me for far too flipping long ...