Monday, 20 April 2020

Groundhog Day

I posted on Instgram about the wisdom of my (not so) little brother about lockdown being a bit like Groundhog Day, the 1993 film starring Bill Murray.  Bill's character embraces the repetitive nature of his life firstly by being hedonistic, then he becomes depressed, before learning to find the positives and do some good - he learns new skills, and sets out to help others.  I've been hearing a lot of positive lockdown stories from friends, family, and my social media hemisphere.  People who have been meaning to 'get fit' for years are embracing online classes and making use of their daily allowed walk.  Some people are throwing themselves into gardening for the first time, or learning to cook from scratch.  There's also a lot of home maintenance and cleaning going on!

No two days are the same with a baby - always entertaining!

I read the results of a poll that reported less than 10% of us in the UK want things to return to 'normal' after the epidemic. Benefits of lockdown have included the environmental impact (cleaner air, more wildlife etc.), stronger communities and people eating more healthily thanks to home cooking.  People are keeping in touch with friends and family more.  Another survey showed that people's use of corner shops has increased by a quarter.  Which of these changes are sustained, only time will tell.

What changes do I personally want to continue?  I value the time not spent in shops, all of those "I'll just nip to the supermarket" for a single ingredient trips that add up and eat away at precious time.  I think in future I'll order all of my basic store cupboard essentials to be delivered, as I'd rather have the time saved.  I love getting in the garden every single day, even if it's 5 minutes, to deadhead some flowers or drink a cup of tea sat on our front porch.  I'm more connected with family members, through video calls and more regular chats and messages.  I'm even playing board games - virtually - with some family down in Sussex.  I am also spending more time mending things, sorting through things I don't need, organising and tidying.  It feels like time to get everything in order, and get back to basics.  A refresh, a reboot - the most thorough Spring clean I've ever done!

Here's my weekly isolation diary then, with more garden pictures and even a few photos of me in a dress!

I managed to get another supermarket delivery slot, hallelujah.  Chris tried to shop in person earlier in the week but the queues to get in store were very long, so he tried another day.  Both other shoppers and - worryingly - staff members showed a blatant disregard for any social distancing.  He got a decent shop done but found it really stressful.  It does mean that we've continued to explore what is lurking at the bottom of the freezer.  This has mainly proved to be endless packets of really hot chillies, but there have been some nice surprises like a punnet of blueberries and some rhubarb and orange puree.  My favourite ready-steady-cook recipe this week was a sweet potato, spinach and chickpea curry found here from the 'Oh She Glows' vegan cookbook.  It was fantastic as the only real fresh ingredient is the sweet potato - everything else is store cupboard (tins, spices), or freezer (spinach, ginger, lime wedges).  It was utterly delicious too, and we have leftovers for tonight.

I have been perfecting my Bara Brith, a traditional Welsh tea loaf.  I made it for Sunday afternoon tea, using my mother in law's recipe, with a few twists added by me.  I even set the table properly; ironed a table cloth, brought out the Wedgewood cups and saucers and the mid-century wooden knives, and put a dress on!

This '70s dress was a fiver from a man with a lockup.

Of course there's been more gardening, with this lovely sunshine making a return!  One job I had been putting off was to dig out the strawberries. You're only meant to keep the plants for about four years, and we've had them over six. They also shouldn't be kept in the same area year after year. I selected the new plants that have popped up from runners, and any old plants with flowers on, and moved them elsewhere in the veg patch.  For the first day or two they were limply sprawled, as if near death.  I watered them, and they still didn't really improve.  Lo and behold, we had a rainy day - and up they popped again, full of life!  I'm not so sure about the peas.  They were from a free packet given out at Ask Italian when I went for a meal last summer.  They did really well indoors, but since I've put them in the veg patch, some of the leaves are looking a little scorched.  I vaguely remember something on the packet about not liking full sun, which I promptly disregarded, as most peas like full sun and crop better in such a position. Only time will tell...

We also harvested the first of the rhubarb, it was lovely stewed with a bit of greek yoghurt.  I definitely need some more rhubarb recipes, as we don't need any more rhubarb chutney after the masses I made last year (rhubarb and ginger, and rhubarb and orange - both excellent combinations).

Elsewhere the sunshine and rain has sparked a growth spurt in lots of different plants.  The peony buds are getting ready to burst forth, the apple tree has a lot of blossom this year, and the irises are still going strong.  I've started getting a bit cavalier with my gardening attire as well.  I'm not doing any major lifting/digging or other dirty work presently, so I felt safe doing weeding in a white frilly blouse under my dungarees!

We don't have many toys for the baby yet, aside from a few kind gifts from friends and family.  He's still too young to need a lot of toys, which is just as well, as our intention was to buy things from car boot sales and jumble sales and they won't be happening any time soon!  His current favourite playthings are my face, my hair, muslins and blankets.  A plastic measuring cup whilst I was tidying the kitchen entertained him for a whole ten minutes.  I've ordered one of those play gyms, but goodness knows when it will arrive!  I'm putting together a box full of sensory objects for him.  So far it has scraps of different fabrics (shiny, see-through, stiff, soft etc.), a pink foam heart, and some small toys.

Chris finished the furniture, which he got free of charge from Facebook marketplace.  He forgot to take any 'before' photos, but imagine a 'brown wood' looking set.  It was solid pine underneath all of the varnish, but we have a bit too much pine in our house already and so he painted the sides and drawers in a nice Farrow and Ball ('Slipper Satin') and waxed the naked wood tops, handles and feet with a bit of Fiddes.  It looks great!

Finally, I am thinking about doing some sewing.  I have a large cushion that I made a cover for a couple of decades ago in the cheapest cotton I could find.  It is not a great colour, and doesn't really 'go' with our living room.  I've unearthed a lovely piece of vintage wool from my fabric stash, still with a tag on, and have washed it ready to start turning it into a new cushion cover.  I don't know how old the fabric is, but judging from the cheap price it must be from some time ago!

What has your week been like?


  1. I love rhubarb but Himself hates it so I don't really get the chance to eat it (sigh) it is fab with strawberries though, Delia has a great rhubarb and strawberry pie recipe. I must admit to keeping in touch with friends and family so much more than I usually do at the moment which makes me feel quite guilty about how bad I was before! I love the furniture and isn't it bliss to get outside for a bit each day.

    1. I've never tried strawberries with rhubarb, but it sounds utterly delicious! Thank you for the tip. x

  2. Your dress from the man with the lockup is fab, I can see Ann fighting you for that when she manages to come back to the UK!
    Jon's the shopper in this house and he's always popping out to the supermarket for something, he says he's definitely ghoing to change his ways in future and already has shunned Morrisons and the van for a walk to our corner shop - the good thing about walking is that he can only bring back what he can carry and he's a sod for massive bags of snacks!
    Love Chris's bedside cabinet makeover, very professional! The Moffat Weavers fabric is a gorgeous colour and the Bara Brith looks amazing.
    Your garden is gorgeous, my rhubarb still isn't ready and my irises haven't bloomed yet, we must be way behind you.
    Take care and stay safe, all three of you! xxx

    1. I did think about Ann when I saw that dress! I felt obliged to buy it knowing that she couldn't!
      It's funny to think that our garden might be a little ahead of others, as sometimes I think being a bit higher up we are behind. We do get full sun all day on a lot of our garden though.


  3. I just read Vix's comment. She knows me so well, as I was going to say I'd gladly steal that from you. It's a good thing for you I can't come to the UK now :-) Your garden seems to be thriving! I love those Peonies and Irises, both of which used to be in Dove Cottage's garden before its decline. We are undoing years of neglect - due to an unpleasant neighbour - and enjoying the process of building it up again. Your Bara Brith looks delicious and makes me miss Wales. That Moffat Weavers fabric is gorgeous, what an amazing colour, and I'm loving Chris's cabinet makeover. Do stay safe and sane! xxx

  4. I am enjoying seeing your garden grow!
    I cannot believe the little one is 4 months already :)
    The overall and cotton shirt looks so good.

  5. I didn't realise you were undoing years of neglect in the garden! It must be quite a challenge. I hope an enjoyable one! You certainly have a beautiful garden from what I've seen. xx

  6. Yes, that's an amazing price for tweed, it must be quite old.

    That furniture's come up lovely.


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