Pebbles In My Pocket

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Seizing the last of the light, we found ourselves at Rocken End, the entire stretch of pebbly beach to ourselves. The beach isn’t far from the road, but it is a twenty minute scramble from the car park through overgrown jungle-like landslip. Of course, the harder a beach is to get to the more magical it is.

With picnic dinner, coffee and a long leash for Rolo, we had the most deliciously chilled time. As we wandered the shoreline, throwing the frisbee and playing around, I collected a couple pebbles for my pocket.

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The last time I picked up pebbles was two years ago on a sunrise trip to Culver Cliff. Those stones stayed in my pocket through everything. In the middle of winter, my hands braced against a storm, or reaching for my keys on a grey supermarket run; every time my fingers would brush against that smooth sunny memory. So when the last one finally disappeared a month ago our evening trip to Rocken End seemed a perfect moment to hold on to.

Rocken End

Do you collect flotsam on your travels? Ian McEwan returned some rocks to Chesil Beach after the public outcry over his beach theft. I don’t think a couple pebbles sitting in a pocket will tip the balance too greatly and carrying them with me makes me happy. Surely such simple pleasures are not the worst crime.

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An Easy Rhubarb Tart

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When I visited Amber last week, not only did she dig up half her garden to share, she also sent me home with a bundle of freshly-picked rhubarb. Ordinarily I would make a crumble, oaty and sweet, eaten in spades with a dollop of ice cream on the side.

But I had a hankering for one of those delicious custardy tarts, that every French village bakery sells. The kind that makes me wish I was French. Turns out neither custard nor pastry is quite as straightforward as the usual chocolate chip cookies I churn out when I have a sweet-tooth.

Cakes and puddings should rarely take longer to make than they do to eat. So, I hacked together a quick and easy tart to follow my rule, and spent the time saved sipping coffee and having a natter with my mum. In case I’m not alone in the lazy-baker status I’ve jotted the recipe down below:

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Prep pastry: Grab a ready-made roll of shortcrust pastry from the chiller at the supermarket. Lay it into a round dish, smoosh into the edges, and trim the surplus at the top (but leave a bit of wiggle room as the pastry may shrink a bit as it bakes. Prick the base with a fork and pop it in the fridge.

Bake rhubarb: chop in to chunks and put in an oven dish. Mix in ~80g brown sugar and a splash of vanilla extract. Cover in foil and bake in a medium oven for around 15mins. Then, drain and put aside the baked rhubarb.

Blind bake pastry: cover the base in baking parchment and baking beans for ~15mins. Then, remove parchment and beans and bake for a further 5mins. Once baked, wash the bottom with egg white.

Make custard: whisk ~80 caster sugar, 1 tablespoon cornflour, 2 eggs, one small pot (~300ml) of creme fraiche.

Assemble your pie: add the rhubarb first, then pour custard over the top.

Bake for 25mins. Enjoy with a cup of coffee and a gossip.

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Amber’s Garden

Amber Collage

I’m always on the lookout for flowers to add to my beautifully colourful and eclectic cottage garden. You know- the one that only exists in my mind. Despite living in the same house for eight years, every spring I seem to find myself confronted with the same blank earth, followed by an overly exuberant (and expensive) dash to the garden centre.

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Not so this year, as my friend Amber volunteered some Verbena. When I popped over for coffee yesterday I was planning to simply pinch a couple pots to add to my plot, and instead revelled in an hour of raiding her beautiful garden, talking Island life and guessing plant names (my favourite being ‘yellow things’, which is now officially stamped on a plant label in my garden.)

I left with a car packed full of oregano, primrose, crocosmia, hollyhocks, and said ‘yellow things'; all essential ingredients in any self-respecting garden. I’ve plopped them in my soil in the hope they’ll survive, reassuring myself with Amber’s instructions to ‘just chuck them in’. I feel the pressure to make them succeed. Grow my pretties, grow…

Two Stars and a Wish

Star Flower

Oh hello Spring! Every day of blustery blue skies feels full of potential as my self-employed time stretches before me. I have visions of days filled with yoga, home-cooked lunches, leisurely walks and afternoon naps. Secretly I know it won’t be nearly so idyllic, but a girl can dream.

I’m excited to have time to blog and share a few more fresh air adventures. I’ve been doodling a redesign and thinking through what I really want to write about. It would be even better if it also fits with what you want to read about!

In Tom’s early teaching days he introduced ‘two stars and a wish’ with his class: two good things, and one thing to improve. I loved the perfect simplicity of it and have used it ever since. I don’t care if it’s intended for six year olds, it still applies to a movie review, a meal out, or a recent read.

Could you give Rusty Rambles the same? What are the two things that keep you reading and what do you wish was different? Blogging is a strange mix of complete isolation and infinite camaraderie. So many of you read and yet I don’t know why! So I’m calling out for a dose of that community spirit. Say hello, tweet or leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think.

Meet Rolo the Rescue Mutt

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We have been With Mutt in this house for a week now. I’ve been failing to write this post for seven days due to the endlessly delightful distraction that is watching Rolo find his feet in his new home. We’ve revelled in sunny spring days with maximum outdoor time, plenty of snoozes, and more running around in the garden than I’ve done in ten years.

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I have longed to have a dog for as long as I can remember. The beginning of my new work, based at home, finally made it possible. There’s no way that starting a new business and getting a new dog at the same time is a bad idea, right?! (I like a challenge;) Both work and mutt have been plans long in the making (you’ll spot it in my Alphabet Year list) and I’m so excited they’re both finally happening!

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I knew we would love having a dog, so have been wilfully ignorant of all the many inconveniences attached. It turns out I don’t mind that sunrise walk round the block and have accepted the hair with the graceful purchase of a lint roller. The need to sweep often is counterbalanced by the fact I never need clear up dropped crumbs again.

Not much is known about his early days before he arrived at the collie rescue centre. We are all having to be gentle and patient with each other. His ears are starting to perk up and he’s trailing us around the house a little less than before. We’re enjoying figuring each other out in these early days. Huge thanks go to Jen from Inky Collective for all the advice and reassurance.

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I think D is my favourite letter of the alphabet year so far.)

Meanwhile, I’m reading these lovely blogs for some dog day delights: Michelle, Freya, and Jenny.

Life Lately

Raleigh Commuter
Rusty Wheels Collage

It’s been a mad march; haring around, sorting a million and one things. We have so much change and excitement coming up. This, my first Saturday close to home in weeks, was dedicated to pootling around with Tom and feeling the (cold damp!) wind in my hair.

Wall Collage

Sunday was a rare DIY day, complete with painting, sanding and drilling. We’re getting ready for holidays, last work days and a possible new houseguest.

Soon I’ll have much more time to spend writing and catching up with the lovely creative blogosphere. Michelle, Kat and Kathleen have all been inspiring me to write more and strive to create a beautiful web space of my own. Do you have any other reading suggestions to inspire?

Ferry West

Moments with Strangers

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We caught the early light down on the seafront, whizzing down on our bikes, surprised by the bite in the wind, and feeling bad for the Rusts, who were cycling east in the headwind to visit us for Mother’s Day brunch.

Brunch supplies in hand, we walked back home up the steps in Northwood Park and bumped in to a delightful woman; a bundle of wispy grey hair amidst layers of multicoloured wool, shepherding an old springer spaniel in her shadow. She quite decidedly stopped us for a chat and we were swept along in her talk of finding missing gloves, temperamental animals, and local walking routes.

I love the little connections with unknown neighbours that stretch just a little beyond ‘how’s the weather’. These early spring days are filled with a million things, but a five minute stop on a chilly path reminded me to just slow down for a moment.