It’s that time of year when I get all overexcited about the promise of a new set of twelve months. Setting grand plans in midwinter feels weird, but my inner procrastinator enjoys writing down plans that can still be put off for a good few months yet. So, true to long-held (three year) tradition, Tom and I scribbled down some alphabetised plans for 2016, freely pinching each other’s ideas as we went.

You’ll spot that Tom’s approach to paperwork is far neater than mine (and he has better handwriting; the woes of being a teacher’s wife.) We’re both trying to make food a bigger part of our days, and improve our practical skills (Tom’s C is for chainsaw!) Meanwhile, I’ve left D blank. I don’t think we should rescue a dog for the second year running… So, all other ‘D’ ideas gratefully received! Here’s to another year of challenge and adventure.

PS – You can view last year’s alphabet list here. I’d love to hear your own ideas over on Twitter or Instagram.

Life Offscreen

View up in to trees

Last week had me gathering, pressing, pinning and posting autumn packages to some of my favourite bloggers around the country. I’ve been lingering on walks, noticing small details, things to gather and post to friends. I defy anyone to suggest that brown paper packages tied up with string aren’t among their most favourite of things.

It started with a conversation about the perfect wild restoration of time spent in nature. Ever since Kate and I stumbled upon our shared passion for the outdoors her podcasts have been a regular listen, full of creativity and yarn indulgence. When she suggested we share some seasonal adventuresome ideas I was quick to agree. Add to that my love of pencil and paper and we simply had to involve the post office in our plans.

Drawings on papers

So began The Life Offscreen Project: a simple action that we hope will cause a ripple effect reminder to get outside and off our screens. The idea is really simple:

  • Send a snail mail reminder to a friend to get out and enjoy some seasonal adventure.
  • Use your mail as a prompt to notice the little things, to gather and share some outdoor inspiration.

Over the coming weeks you’ll notice other bloggers joining in and little pieces of mail being shared that we hope inspires others to live life on the wilder side. You don’t have to sign up and no one is going to hold you accountable. This is your moment to share and discover. If you have taken part in the project though, we would love to hear from you!

To start you off, we’ve gathered some of our other freedom-seeking friends and created a Pinterest board with plenty of inspiration for a Life Offscreen.

See you on Instagram? #lifeoffscreen.

No Idle Hands

Cross stitching

Tom’s grandad always loved to see people busy with their hands. A prolific and talented cross-stitcher himself, he often used to extol the virtues of ‘no idle hands’. Not only was I born to a crafty family, I also appear to have married in to one. Tom’s mum is a stitcher of many things, whilst Tom himself is rarely far from a pencil or craft knife.

I’ve always preferred textile to paper, doubting my artistic ability after plenty of dispiriting childhood moments when the picture in my head would refuse to translate itself on to paper. So, at the beginning of the year when I swore to try a new craft, it seemed natural to pick up some cross stitch. This little amber bee has taken me quite some time. I’m not sure I have the patience for counting squares and fiddling with different shades of thread, but I’m pleased with how it’s looking so I shall bloody-well persevere until it’s done!

Jennie Maizel's Sketchbook Club

Jennie Maizel's Sketchbook Club

I’ve also been overcoming my fear of drawing, thanks to Jennie Maizel’s Sketchbook Club. The project has just enough structure and freedom to make it all seem ‘doable’, with my added delight in now being a frequenter of the local art shop. My grama has always been the one buying the art supplies. Her house is full of beautiful big canvases she’s painted over the years. So, I’m sure she too would be an appreciator of ‘no idle hands’.

An Easy Rhubarb Tart

Rhubarb tart on table next to flowers

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:

Ingredients for an easy rhubarb tart

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.

Rusty in her kitchen

Amber’s Garden

Amber photo 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.

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…