We went West for Christmas. It was good, for us both. Although the weather was not all that California weather is meant to be (read pissing rain for many of the days we were there) the enforced inside time and relaxation was a blessing.
Due to the terrible weather we spent the first day in the California Academy of Sciences. They had an amazing coral reef aquarium with the most beautiful array of fish. I could have watched it for hours.
Of course there is the bridge, which is as spectacular in real life as it is in your imagination. And it really was that grey for many of the days… Although there’s something about dull, low grey and mizzle which makes me feel so cosy.
Our friends took us in search of sunshine and find it we did. We even found some Elk. Who knew there were Elks in Northern California, certainly not I. Speaking of Elk we also saw Elephant Seals and hummingbirds (so very amazing).
And then the last day spent in a blaze of sunshine, seeing the city on foot and enjoying the colours and contrasts that this city provide, old vs new, green space vs urban sprawl, poor vs rich.
I’m sure we’ll be back.
Work took me to Australia in August, which was wonderful as it meant I got to see my sister and family. I also got to see koalas, wombats, kangaroos and all sorts of cute Australian wildlife.
I’ve always loved wombats, we had a book as children called “The Muddle Headed Wombat” which was one of my favourites growing up.
I started out in Brisbane, for a small city it has excellent shopping and is very picturesque with its river setting.
We managed to sneak away to the beach one day, J enjoyed throwing himself straight into the sea. I enjoyed watching my niece and nephew have fun in the sand and sea.
We also managed to get out into the bush, the sound of being woken by laughing kookaburras is really quite special. They’re also a beautiful bird and watching them, the parakeets and the cockatoos all flying around was fabulous.
I then headed over to Perth for the next part of my work trip. I was actually staying and working in Fremantle so didn’t get to see much of Perth but I did manage a trip along the Swan River to enjoy seeing the city and all the surrounds. Not a city I would rush to return to but I’m glad I went there.
One of the things I love about Australia is seeing all the plants that were in the books I grew up with. My mama is Australian and as Granny was in Australia she used to send us across Australian children’s books. “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” was one of my favourite ever books and I still look at Banksia plants and see the evil Banksia men.
A very quick turn around after Australia and we were off again, this time heading home, to return to my home and see one of my best friends get married. It was a beautiful wedding and they were blessed with glorious weather. N did an amazing job organising it all with all the details carefully thought out and wonderfully bought to fruition.
I still feel very lucky that we were able to fly back for her wedding and were able to share that day with N and her husband. Plus of course it was lovely seeing both sets of parents and actually relaxing a little!
We used to have window boxes in London where we grew herbs and flowers and I loved them dearly. It cheered me up to see the greenery and know that I had grown it! It also saved a fortune in fresh herbs once they got going, the basil especially grew like gangbusters during the summer.
So when we moved to DC one of the first things I noticed about our flat was the lack of window boxes or opportunities to grow anything. All the windows have fly screens to keep the mosquitoes out and I would rather have no mosquitoes than plants.
Then last weekend our church was having a flower mart and they had lots of herbs on sale so I decided that now was the time to invest. We then had to get something to put our indoor window boxes on and chose a red Ikea bench which if needed can also be used as an actual bench rather than just a place for our plants.
I love seeing them in our living room! Tending to them and checking them for how they are doing. Our basil, thyme and parsley are all looking very happy in their new homes. Our coriander on the other hand is taking a little longer to settle in but I’m sure it will get there eventually.
Last weekend we went out exploring with a friend. We’ve been to a Virginia vineyard before, last summer, and thought it was about time for another trip. This time we headed further, out West to the beginnings of the rolling Shenandoah hills. It is just beautiful and peaceful out there. Lots of green, wide open spaces, no sirens, no car horns, relaxing.
We chose to go to DuCard vineyards on the basis that they had a singer performing that afternoon. The singer was Curtis Prince, he had a lovely voice and was playing the kind of songs you want to listen to on a warm spring afternoon with a glass of wine in your hand.
The vineyard is small but the setting is just lovely and the wines were good, plus as an added bonus a lot better than the ones we had tried last year. We especially enjoyed the rose and the Popham Run Red, both of which we bought a bottle of to enjoy at home.
If you ever are in that neck of the woods I would thoroughly recommend a visit, even without live music, a glass of rose on their patio with the sun gently warming you is well worth the effort.
I had never tried making banana bread until last month. I had also never been that convinced of its worth. However with some very black bananas, a cold weekend and the help of Smitten Kitchen I gave it my first shot. It was goooood.
I tried it again a week later, with the recommended brown sugar and added pecans and to be honest it was even *better*, I wasn’t sure it could be but it really was. Now when we get bananas I shall hope that some get left until they go good and soft and then I can have the excuse to make this again. I would especially recommend it for breakfast spread with greek yoghurt.
Springtime in Washington, D.C. really is glorious. This year especially. We’ve had about six days in a row with temperatures in the twenties (Celcius that is), which has meant that the cherry blossoms are out early. They were due at the end of March but we went down to see them this weekend and they were already looking wonderful.
Below is a new type of cherry tree for me, the weeping cherry tree, it has the most beautiful branches fir to bursting with blossom which dust down to the ground and sway gently in the wind.
And finally, some gentle pink amongst the white. It would seem that the pinker blossomed trees flower later than the white blossom ones as when we were out and about most of the trees were white. This one though was tinged pink and looked ever so pretty.
I’ve not posted a recipe in a long time but tonight as I was walking round Whole Foods buying stuff for dinner I was inspired by the gorgeous fennels I saw. Then I remembered this recipe, I was introduced to it by my middle sister, I have no idea where she got it from but ever since I first had it I knew it was a good one. So I thought it was high time to get sharing again especially as this is one of my favourite salads, the perfect combination of citrus and aniseed. The final touch, it looks good too. Shall we begin…
Take one fennel bulb and one grapefruit.
Remove the fronds from the fennel for later, then finely slice the fennel, I used half of the above one this time but you can use as much as you want.
Then prepare the grapefruit to segment it. Slice the top and bottom off flat and slice off all the skin, ideally all of the pith too but I never bother too much beyond about the below point.
Over your sliced fennel segment your grapefruit, make sure to do it over the fennel so you catch all the juice. As these were big segments I chopped two out of each rather than have fewer fatter ones.
Finally put it all in the bowl together, drizzle over a generous helping of olive oil, sprinkle on sea salt and then gently stir. Be careful those segments are delicate.
I’ve just got back from a work trip to Europe, I managed to combine it with popping over to England to go to a wedding and then surprised my mama for her birthday. It was rather lovely. During my brief trip I went for a walk with my parents, we were lucky, the sun was shining and spring was beginning to show its face. It reminded me how beautiful England can be and how nice it is to tramp around in the countryside and see life beginning to get going again with the longer warmer days.
We went out west over Christmas and the New Year, there we were treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what it is about it perhaps the colours, the slow fade of light, whatever it is it just gets me, fascinates me with its glory and beauty.
Also these, straight out of the camera, no filter, no playing, no nothing, that really was what it was like…