Everything in the garden
The new opportunities for physically distanced small gatherings made me anxious. Suddenly I had some limits on my time as invitations came along with places to be and people to see. The pressure to be socially available was in conflict with wanting to know which meetings would be 'good' and which would be 'bad'. It was time to review the way I'm living. Again. My preferred spot for thinking things through, is my garden. Or more precisely, my garden chair in the sunniest corner. In the spring this was a plain square patio yard. By the time the May sunshine arrived, my gardening labours had been rewarded with a mass of flowers, colourful chairs and a flamingo. Taking a week off for 'half term' gave me the space I needed to remember that I don't have to fill my days. I can find ways to live slowly; bread making is now a perfectly tasty part of my week. With the right recipe (thank you, Simon), I've found the rhythm of resting and rising to be reassuringly slow, measured and forgiving. Naturally disappointments come along the way too. My TV choices have been more misses than hits. How does anyone know when it's time to bail on a box set? With the benefit of time I managed to find inspiration from my latest recommendation. Some commitments are more rewarding than others, of course. You know, like getting a dog. Yes! She'll need to be walked (I love walking), she might make a mess (I have children) and she might get stinky (I told you, I have children), but... a dog!
Sunshine & Flowers
If you've been following me on Instagram, you'll know that I was meant to have had a holiday in Spain in May. It would have been my first holiday as a divorcee and travelling alone as a single parent with my boys. I booked it last year pretending to be braver than I actually was.
I'm repurposing my holiday wardrobe for a British summer in Whitstable. Never forget the sunscreen.
Despite a little sadness at not living my best single parent Spanish life, sipping a beer and eating tapas at our favourite chiringuito, I have created a flower-filled garden where I can reflect on family, friends, good health and a business that I love. The blank square yard with plain fencing was all that I had to work with. Although I didn't have a fixed plan, I had a lot of pots and I knew that I wanted bright colourful flowers. Supermarkets and generous neighbours supplied all the pretty annuals (pansies and daisies mostly) and sweet smelling herbs that I could need. I added a few troughs for salad leaves and used hanging baskets and tiered shelves to add height and extra space. More is more. If you've never created a garden before... even in June, it's not too late to buy brightly coloured plants for your own balcony, yard, patio or garden - start with flower pots and troughs so that you can move them to where you'll enjoy them most. Add a chair for the sunny spot and brightly coloured cushions. Honestly, you won't be able to stop loving what you've brought into your life. I may not have any bougainvillea but it's not bad for a make-shift hacienda.
Layering for summer
It looks like summer, it feels like summer- it must be summer!
The sunshine was calling out for a new linen shirt teamed with my favourite necklaces for layering: Feather Pendant from the newest Flights of Fancy collection, Palm Pendant, a Neptune chain fromBlack & Sigi and a gorgeous silver bar fromCabbage White England. There are fabulous women behind both those jewellery brands, so do take a look.
Slow and sure
Have you even been in lockdown if you haven't made bread? For some people it's a science experiment of making yeasty cultures work for you, but for me, it's all about the calm pace of rest and rising goodness. Looking back, I realise that my concern about all those stages of stretching and resting was actually a reluctance to commit to a process. Now that I've worked through the method a few times, I feel excited to see how the dough thrives during each rest period. Life lessons in a bread recipe, huh? I shared this recipe with a friend who had only ever made heavy bread before. Reader, she made a light and airy loaf of tasty sourdough.
Combine 60g of wholemeal flour and 60ml of water in a large jar or bowl with a lid. Leave it to rest in a warm spot for 24 hours.
Check for any dark liquid on the surface of the starter, pour the liquid off and scrape off any discoloured starter. Leave for another 24 hours.
Day 3 is feeding day. Remove and discard half of your starter and then add another 60g wholemeal flour and 60ml water.
Continue step 3 until you are ready to make your leaven. You can continue feeding this starter for all your future loaves.
Leaven for 1kg loaf
60g strong white flour
60g wholemeal flour
50g mature starter
Mix water and starter until diluted. Stir in the flour until all flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl (tea towel or cling film) and leave in a warm place for 4-5 hours.
360g strong white flour
95g wholemeal flour
25g rye flour
In the summer, use cold water; in winter, use warm water. The optimal dough temperature is 24-28°.
Add leaven to the water and stir to dilute.
Add flours to the water and mix thoroughly to incorporate all the flour. There's no need to sift the flours. Leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Add the salt, mix/kneed thoroughly to incorporate the flour. Leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough. Leave to rest for 2-3 hours.
Shape into a round, dust with flour and place seam side up into a floured banneton (if you have one, or a bowl will do). Cover and refrigerate for 12-18 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 235° and turn dough out of the banneton/bowl into a lightly oiled dutch oven. Score a cross into the top of the loaf. Put the lid on the dutch oven.
Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on and then take the lid off and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
I put the word out that I was looking for a dog and within a week, I had the opportunity to rehome Susan.
She is a much loved and cared for patterdale whippet cross, but needed calmer neighbours - fortunately my neighbours are lovely and I've got plenty of love to share too. She's settling in and we are getting along just fine. It feels good to have a dog to take on walk every day. It works for both of us to get up and out at the start and end of the day. In between times, she likes to lie out in the sun, hang out on anything pink and play a game of tug. She's a keeper.
Watching: White Lines
I watched White Lines for a dose of Spanish sunshine, a splash of rave nostalgia and a juicy mystery to unravel. It didn't quite deliver the drama, but I have already got my name down for an Ibizan villa in 2021.
Basking in the memories of raves past and dreams of bougainvillea in my future, I will not regret the odd dud in my watch list. And who knows, you might enjoy it - we're on the journey together, aren't we?
Listening: Gorillaz, Aries ft Peter Hook & Georgia
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