Summer’s house

Summer has built her house around me
with green fern walls
and a sky roof woven
from criss-crossed bird flight.
– Melinda Schwakhofer



We’re into our second consecutive week of sunshine and endless blue skies.  It’s raising everybody’s spirits after the washout that was last summer.  Victory, my favourite statue in Northernhay Gardens, Exeter honours the sun.

Running away to the circus

Last Saturday, Steve and I ran away to the circus.

We made our way to Minchinhampton, a beautiful little town in the Cotswolds.  The circus was in town for a few days on the Common.

I put my hair in pigtails and dressed up in my Fine Linen shirt, boiled wool blazer, knickerbockers and high-heeled, t-strap Mary Janes.

Tomboy Chic

We met up with two of our dear friends at our B & B and set off across the Common.

Minchinhampton Common at dusk

Jayne and I in Circus Best

The chaps, Steve and John, lead the way

For our walk across the field I changed into my new Converse star flyer sneakers and carried my Mary Janes in a bag.  And a good thing I’d changed!  After we got there, I realised I’d forgotten the tickets at our B & B, so I sprinted back to get them (and got back just in time to change back into my heels and make a Grand Entrance into the circus tent).

Sawdust beneath my feet

Giffords Circus is a fantastic experience.   Toti and Nell Gifford started Giffords Circus in 2000. Their vision was of a miniature village green circus, packed, rowdy, glamorous – birds and horses and motorbikes bursting from a fluttering white tent – a show for rural families, farmers and filmstars. I find this circus part vaudeville, part music hall act, part panto and utterly magical.  As my favourite painter and circus lover says,

“For me a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world.
A circus is disturbing. It is profound”
-Marc Chagall

Tweedy runs afoul of The Law

The Bobby on traffic patrol

Packed with spangles and feathers,

Bird of Paradise Usherette

Spangled Circus Lady

and filled with spectacle, great live music and stellar performers.

The Mataloes

Debonair on the high wire

The Gold Standard – all tapdancing with winks and smiles all round


Tweedy reaches for the stars

I loved this horse who carried the bareback riders.

My favourite clown – Tweedy!

At the interval, we all went outside to enjoy the beautiful summer evening.

A stout-hearted English oak

Some of us took photos,


Run Rabbit

Circus snapper

some of us ran around barefoot,

and everyone enjoyed themselves and each other.  The spirit of the circus is so huge that it spills out of the bigtop.

A great icebreaker was, ‘Is this your first circus?’

A little constellation of circus comraderie


After the circus was over we had a starlit three ring, I mean three course, meal at Circus Sauce, the 42 seat travelling restaurant.  Saving that for another post!

Circus Sunset


Just time for a quickie today. Here is our perfect Sunday.

We slept in after hosting a Mexican Dinner Party the night before (guest of honour:  pork (as in Sweet Melinda’s Kick Ass Carnitas)); washed the dishes and put the kitchen back together; ordered a lamp from French créateur & assembleur de luminaire, Olivier Abry, for our kitchen; went into Exeter; Steve bought me a pair of summer shoes – suede grey Converse Star Players; we saw ‘Looking for a Friend at the End of the World’ (best movie I’ve seen in ages) at the cinema AND the sun came out.  So we celebrated with Pimm’s and a great dinner of Mexican leftovers.

Tomboy Chic

Splendid Summer Bunting

I am so enjoying getting up and NOT putting my painting clothes on!  We’ve finally finished, although I will be painting my studio pretty soon.

This weekend, I put the non-orange portion of the kitchen back together, after having finished painting it on Friday, and gave everything a jolly good scrub, eg, floor, top of fridge, toaster, in the process.

Today, I brought my sewing machine into the kitchen and spent the morning making bunting guided by a super-easy bunting tutorial from Josie at Homemade & Happy.

I used some of my hand-dyed (by me!) and batik (store-bought) turquoise fabrics to bring a splash of blue into the kitchen and to add to this Summer’s festivities.

We’re having houseguests this weekend and a bunch of our friends over on Sunday for an Innaugural Brunch to celebrate our newly decorated flat, the Queen’s Jubilee, our 2nd wedding anniversary and just about everything else.

Let the festivities begin!

It’s so lovely in here.  Sunny outside and warm enough to have the windows open.  I’m going to switch sewing machines and do some mending that’s been piling up, while enjoying the birdsong streaming in.

Summer’s Bounty

Here’s a beautiful thing to make and eat when you can get ahold of Sweet Eve strawberries grown in Somerset, England, or any locally grown, freshly picked strawberries.  Of course, they’re great on their own.  So sweet and juicy!  It turned into a sunsplashed summer’s day today and our late afternoon kitchen is bathed in honeyed sunshine, which sets everything aglow.  The blueberries are from Lustleigh, a village about 4 miles from home.

Tonight I made a summer supper of oven-BBQed chicken, stovetop grilled veggies with harissa marinade and corn on the cob

(during which time the kitchen got pretty smoky (maybe this is what cooking in Heaven is like!))

We also had a fantastic new wine with dinner:  Navazos-Niepoort 2009.

It’s a fascinating white wine made as a recreation of how still white wines were made 150 years or so ago in Jerez.  This wine was fermented in sherry barrels but is unfortified. There are floral and citrus notes on the nose with the tangy notes of fino sherry.   The wine is quite buttery yellow with a reddish tinge.  On the palate there is a lightness of body which is initially slightly surprising if you think you’re about to get a mouthful of sherry.   Very good!

Steve has been really busy with his work this weekend and will be away most of next week, so I decided to make a special treat for dessert – strawberries with balsamic vinegar.

Here’s how do it:

  • 500g (1 1/4 lb) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Place strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle vinegar over them and sprinkle with sugar.   Stir gently to combine.   Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, but not more than 4 hours.   Just before serving,  grind pepper over the berries.

Fab find from the vintage shop - still smells of coffee, but I keep my caster sugar in it

We had some new friends over for brunch this morning and I picked some luscious, fragrant roses from our front garden and set them afloat in a bowl we received for our wedding.  They got this morning’s sunlight.

They have been subtly perfuming our living room all day long.  Now the sun has journeyed West and gone behind the rooftops (it’s setting earlier with each passing day).

The view from our kitchen

I think it’s time to join my husband in the living room, where he’s been working all afternoon, with a bowl full of succulent summer berries and share the rose-scented late  summer evening.