Have you had a good summer so far? We have, but we’ve had a little bit of help!

Whilst looking for things to do I came across a blog post from Dragons & Fairydust which linked to a page on the Hillarys website which contained not one great list of things to do but FOUR of them, with a massive 40 great ideas for summery activities, ranging from the quick and simple to the more complicated and challenging but, best of all, cheap or free things to do! Hurray!!

I toyed with the idea of coming up with a new ending for one of my favourite films from when I was in my teens, Pretty in Pink but, without giving too much away, if you’re more of a Duckie fan than a Blehhhhane fan, you should read the book anyway instead of watching the film for a far more satisfactory finish. Oh. Um. Actually that did give a bit too much away didn’t it?!

'ere, 'ands off my blackberries you!

‘ere, ‘ands off my blackberries you!


We attempted a blackberry hunt but were a little early to find any ripe and when we did find some growing they were being guarded by a big and fierce protector, so we gave that a miss.




Our true decision on a summer pursuit was, however, decided for us. We were sat in the car after a trip to Dartmoor when Kev said “Blimey, look at that geezer!”. My eyes shot left and right looking for an escapee from Dartmoor Prison running past in a suit covered in arrows (I’m so old) being chased by a gang of policemen blowing whistles and waving truncheons (so, so, so old!) but my daughter was more astute saying “That’s no geyser, it’s an explosion!!”. I was getting seriously worried by then! I finally looked upwards at their pointing fingers and found out they were both wrong, there was actually a cauliflower in the sky.

Of course then the madness really did begin. Here’s a set of clouds depicting He-Man running (sideways on, the big cloud with the grey is his muscly arm…honest!). What can he be running after? Turns out it’s a fox. Well, that’s not very He-Man-ish is it?! Well, get this, it’s SO not He-Man-ish as both he and the fox are being pursued by a big fat cat (not even Battlecat!!) which is about to bite He-Man’s bum!! Tut. So much for heros! Next time we look for She-Ra!

He-Man? Superhero? Pah!

He-Man? Superhero? Pah!

Going off at a tangent….feeling hungry? Well maybe you will after this amazing BACON cloud!!!


(VERY spookily at this point that nice Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2 has just started playing Cloud Number 9 by Bryan Adams – I have goosebumps at his timing!)

There’s hope for the lovelorn amongst us too, thanks to this cloud which clearly shows there is a bright shining light of hope coming through behind that poor old broken heart…


We found this lovely mole poking his head out of his hole and looking to his right to admire the sunset….

Goodnight Ratty. Goodnight Mr. Toad.

Goodnight Ratty. Goodnight Mr. Toad.

And of course we had to look for a dragon in honour of Dragons & Fairydust as a thank you for pointing us in the way of Hillarys’ summer of fun (and madness, and neck ache!). Here’s one in the evening sky (with close up of his head just in case you can’t see it as clearly as we can!!).

2014-08-211So, a HUGE thank you to Hillarys and Dragons & Fairydust because we’ve had such great fun looking for shapes in the sky. I won’t bore you with the hundreds of photos we took of what we believed to be hilarious clouds which we just couldn’t fathom out when we got home!!

I’ll just leave you with this fantastic thought (you’ll love me for this one!!) – it’s only 126 days until Christmas – which is why Rudolph’s out practicing for his night out on the skies with Father Christmas (see, even a red nose! See? SEE?! PLEASE tell me you can see! And pretend you can’t see he morphed into the dragon a little later!).

Go Rudi, go!!

Go Rudi, go!!

Remember, even though Christmas is looming, summer is not over yet! Please go and check out the list on Hillarys’ website for yourself and have some summer fun. Summer’s certainly looked up (groan!) for us since we visited the site!


J is for … Jolly Jaunts, Japes and Journeys

Hmmm, perhaps that’s cheating, but what the heck!

We’re just home from our yearly jaunt to North Wales, my favourite place in the country (so far, but then if we go to the same place every year there isn’t much competition is there?!) and we had a lovely time. We took Holly’s friend Annabel this year – the first time we’ve taken anyone along to witness the madness – so we were all on our best behaviour meaning there wasn’t any of the usual family bickering or moaning (well, not as much as usual anyhow). I was worried the girls would be bored as we follow pretty much the same routine every year, but they seemed quite happy to be dragged to ancient tea-rooms where you hold on for dear life walking up and down the stairs and to visit the family…..in the graveyard! To be fair, Holly knew this would happen beforehand so Annabel had been warned and didn’t seem too phased by it!

We had good fun crabbing, which the girls put in a special request for. Annabel was the star of this catching an eel which made us all squeal (though Kev won’t admit to that I’m sure!). We ate massive cakes, chased steam trains, ate ice-creams and fed chaffinches at the foot of Mount Snowdon, paddled in the sea, the girls drove the car on the beach, nosed at castles, peered over massive reservoir walls, spotted Red Kites, watched crazy entertainment, played 2p machines and we played a new MAD version of table hockey which regularly drops a mass of smaller pucks while you’re trying to defend against the main one. Wasn’t just coincidence that I was always on the winning team I’m sure….

We fitted in a brilliant day trip to Dublin (booked 48 hours ahead on the ferries they want you to travel on this only costs £10 each with Stenaline fact fans….or a fiver if you go on a Tuesday!) which everyone thought was a great success – so much so that the girls have decided they’d like to live there!

Not bad given we were only there 3 whole days with 2 travelling is it?!

Here’s a photo montage and roll on next year I say!



In the Garden – July Update

I was wondering whether it was worth doing an update for July, but looking back at June’s update and comparing it to how things look now, I’m going to go for it!

Starting in the “greenhouse”, the Snowball Cauli and Purple Sprouting Broccoli which were babies last month are now in the garden. The herbs are all coming along nicely, apart from the rosemary which has failed to come through at all. The red peppers have been potted on once during July and need doing again! I ought to have a look on Google to see how big they’re going to grow I guess! That’s beginners for you!

The chilli peppers have put in a surprise appearance too after my doubting them last month. They’re ready to go into solo pots. The hollyhocks are coming along very well, although seem to have some sort of burrowing beastie in some of the leaves which will need sorting out. The winter pansies looked like a fail but there are a couple of them up now. They stand 2 chances I guess!  We also have more lettuce seedlings just shooting up. The lettuces went so well last time that we’re hoping to get another crop in from seed and also have been given some lettuce plants by mum.


Outside both the “old” mint donated by mum and the new mint grown from seed are doing well in dad’s planter. They’ve been joined by Basil Bush (not Brush as I call them) and Loveage (which I’m not sure what to do with now I’ve grown it!).


Both the cucumber and courgette plants have gone mad! I took 2 cucumbers into work today and Holly’s friend took another home with her. Think that still leaves about 6 still growing! We’ve had similar success with the courgette and had a lovely meal with courgette ribbons, fried potatoes, mushrooms, garden peas and cherry tomatoes topped with salmon in sweet chilli sauce the other evening – wish I’d taken a photo as it looked as good as it tasted! The leaves on the courgette are suffering badly from mildew but it doesn’t seem to have affected its performance at all.

2014-08-012We’ve had the potatoes from 2 of our 4 potato sacks and they’ve been lovely. Kev’s been a bit disappointed with the yield from them but I think they’re ideal given there are only 3 of us. Katherine’s tomatoes and sunflowers in bright orange buckets have all moved to her house now so there’s a more room on the patio….just as well as Kev’s bought me another mini greenhouse!

Into the main veg garden, the leeks are coming along slowly and surely. We’ve had some carrots which were stubby and small but beautifully sweet. The beans have been going mad too and we’ve had plenty to eat and already have some in the freezer too to try and keep up with them as they grow!


Unfortunately the cabbages and the cauli plants and sprouts grown from seed that we put in have been badly munched by caterpillars as has the Yarcombe Chard, which I sadly cut down and ditched this morning. Hopefully we can get them covered up and keep the beasties at bay from now on and it’s certainly a lesson to learn for next year. The sprouts have a long way to go yet before we have veg from them so hopefully the problem will decrease as the season goes on and we’ll have a good crop from them. The hearts of the cabbages seem okay so I’ll just have to wait and see when we cut the first of them.

I love the peas! They look like a funny sort of Christmas tree to me as they’re grown in wigwams and taste every bit as beautiful as I remember from pinching the ones Grandad grew when I was little. Amazingly some have actually made it to the plate although I still fail to see why anyone would prefer them cooked to straight off the plant.


It’s actually the sunflowers which convinced me to do an update! Looking back at them last month and how much they’ve grown in that space of time is quite mind-blowing to me! No sign of flowers yet though! They’re a bit munched too but looking reasonably okay. The sweetcorn’s come along really well too and the rhubarb, as you may have seen, has been cut down and eaten and this is the second lot of leaves of the season growing now. A quick before and after on the sunflowers….


Moving onto more flowery things, AT LAST the sweetpeas have flowered! Just when I was thinking they wouldn’t. They smell beautiful and I’m going to have another, hopefully more successful, go with them next year. The Cosmos has been an absolute joy and seems to have gone on flowering and flowering. I’d like to have a go at them from seed next year as well as they’ve given us such pleasure – particularly me being able to see them from the kitchen window when I’m washing up!


The rest of that side of the garden looks lush and beautiful and any gaps which existed previously seem to have disappeared! I think that both of the bushes inherited from the previous owner will go at the end of the season as they take up so much space and don’t really add that much to the garden (I’m so heartless!).


The clematis is a gorgeous colour too…..


Bit soggy after today’s rain, but boy did the garden need it! We have 6 water butts and every one was empty. Hopefully today will have sorted it out.

Final mention goes to the tomatoes which are doing nicely and have lots of tomatoes on which are very firmly staying green at the moment…..apart from the black tomato and just look how that’s coming along!


Doesn’t it look strange! It’s still green at the back but I’m really looking forward to trying them when they are ready. Hopefully that will have happened by the time I’m ready to do August’s update!