Originally posted 27 July 2018
Hello there lovelies!
Last weekend, our diary was blissfully empty. We woke up on that bright Saturday morning with unscheduled hours stretching out ahead of us, feeling like the world was our oyster, well North West London anyway! What a lovely feeling that was! We decided to pop our breakfast pastries into our wicker trolley and potter off to Hampstead Heath, passing the farmer’s market for seasonal goodies along the way. We relaxed and played in the park for hours.
The rest of the weekend was much the same: relaxation, cooking, barbequing, baking, eating, reading, playing and being mindful all the while that this was Summer, this was family and this was celebrating the season in which even indoorsy folk might be persuaded to enjoy the outdoors a little. I have written about the importance to me of embracing the seasons before here. Finding ways to really celebrate my surroundings, to savour what is happening around me helps the passing of time to feel a little slower and helps me to be more present, rather than forever looking forward and missing the ‘now’.
So, I have compiled a list, a bucket list or a wish list if you will, for me and for you if you fancy, of simple activities and pastimes that will ensure we are really celebrating Summer:
1. Observe and immerse yourself in nature because nothing like nature informs us of both the big and the more subtle seasonal changes around us: What are the birds up to? What garden flowers are blossoming and which blooms are a favourite of pollinators, like bees and hoverflies? Find some wildflowers and try to identify them. Have you seen any butterflies? What colour are they? What other wildlife can you see? Are there juicy berries ripening in the hedgerows and which fruits are weighing down the branches of their trees ready to be picked? Hug a tree! Climb a tree! Look up, look down, look all around! What time is the sun coming up and when is it setting? Enjoy both. Observe how the sunshine shimmers on a river or notice how trees are reflected in a pond. Feel the Summer breeze against your skin. Just sit and listen, watch and smell….Sigh…
2. Enjoy a familiar walk and notice how the same scene has changed since Spring. What is different? Are there aspects that haven’t changed? If there is a special view, stop to take it in. Take a look at photos taken just a couple of months ago in the same location. I go back to the same places again and again and revel in these changes.
3. Find and visit a garden, such as those of the National Trust or English heritage. If said gardens also have greenhouses in them, all the better! There is nothing I enjoy more than nosing around in a greenhouse or potting shed! Notice the variety of plants and flowers. Sit and just enjoy the glorious colours and textures. I am very much influenced by the gardens I have visited. I take mental and photographic ‘notes’ and use them to make changes to and plans for my own garden.
4. Preserve this special season through photography, sketching, painting, embroidery (insert other crafts here) picking and drying (flowers for example). We are going to be drawing as a family this Summer, taking our sketchbooks with us on trips, helping us to really appreciate our surroundings and keep our memories alive. You could of course preserve in the practical sense of the word: turning fruit and veg into jams, chutneys, butters, pickles and liqueurs. Last Summer, I infused gin with blackberries and apples and one Winter evening, I cosied up with a glass of warming gin that took me right back to those wonderful Summer days! A taste of Summer in the Winter is to be relished!
5. Enjoy a meal outside. Our garden becomes a well used and loved extra room during the Spring and Summer. We have a picnic table just outside our back door so we haven’t got far to go to enjoy a meal on a Summer’s evening. One of our great joys is also packing a picnic full of delicious food and drink, taking a tube, a bus or walking to our destination, laying down our picnic blanket and eating our lunch in green and lush surroundings. Food tastes so good outside! It could also be as simple as a biscuit and a flask of something cooling or a punnet of cherries in your local park.
6. Visit a farmer’s market to admire and buy local, seasonal produce. Where is the fruit and veg from? Are there varieties of fruit or vegetables that are new to you? Support your farmers and small businesses. We popped to the farmer’s market last weekend and I learnt so much about seasonality just from perusing the stalls and seeing what was on offer. We found red and white currants, oak smoked garlic, many varieties of tomatoes and golden beetroot, which I did not know existed!
7. Eat and drink home grown/local produce. I made golden beetroot brownies for the children’s teachers this year as a thank you present. Something that gives me great joy is looking for new recipes or even coming up with my own to use seasonal produce in a new (to us) exciting way. But this doesn’t have to be complicated if cooking or experimenting is not your thing. Just simply enjoying a punnet of strawberries that you know haven’t travelled far and have perhaps been picked just a few days before is wonderful! We have grown green runner beans in our garden this year. I was so excited to see that the seeds had germinated and the little plants had started to reach for the canes, wrapping their tendrils around the string. And when the first beans appeared, my excited cries of, “Look, we have beans!” were not quite met with equal enthusiasm but I can tell you that the kids did enjoy picking and eating them. They were definitely sweeter and more flavoursome than their supermarket-bought cousins!
8. Visit the seaside (or a large body of water will do). I think if you live in the UK, a visit to the seaside, even just for a day is compulsory isn’t it? There are so many beautiful locations, some of which are only an hour from London. Sit on the beach, whether sandy or pebbly and allow your eyes to travel to the horizon. Our urban environment doesn’t allow our eyes to travel too far so this is so special for us. Enjoy an ice cream and/or fish and chips whilst sitting and looking out to sea. Paddle or even have a swim! I would love to try wild swimming this Summer. Try skimming pebbles along the water (my hubby’s favourite pastime at the seaside) Walk along the beach, enjoying the sea breeze, allowing your mind to take you wherever it wants to go…
9. To bring the Summer inside, try rearranging a shelf or a sideboard with seasonal blooms and decorations, such as postcards and shells. Add books, tins, posters or anything else that gives your home that Summer feeling and that perhaps also helps you to remember a lovely time gone by.
10. Keep a Summer journal. We used to keep a daily journal as a family years ago to help my daughter get through a tricky stage at school and to help me to get through the experience of losing my Dad. This Summer, we (I) have decided to keep a family gratitude journal, inspired by the lovely Gabrielle Treanor whose podcast, Pressing Pause, I have written about before. In episode 3, Gabrielle speaks about gratitude practice, savouring the little things as a way to help overthinkers worry less and enjoy life more. We are going to write a little bit about our day and then each of us is going to write down something we are truly grateful for. I have decorated the cover of our family journal with doodles of seasonal imagery!
These are just 10 ways in which my family and I are going to celebrate, embrace and remember our Summer. Can you think of any other ways? I’d love to know!
Tomorrow we are off to Somerset for a week to see my wonderful Mum, so we will have lots of interesting things to sketch and photograph. We will have a beach to picnic on and forests to walk in. We will have cream teas to eat and hills to climb. We will have wildlife to spot and seasonal flowers in country cottage gardens to admire and we will have benches to sit on to take in the views. We will have so much to be grateful for.
Until next time lovelies. Take good care and lots of love to you,