There isn’t a whole lot to do in the garden this time of year but I wanted to try out my new secateurs.

Here they are! Japanese and very sharp

I ended up chopping a load of lavender that I hadn’t wanted to cut back at the end of August as it was still flowering quite well, some grasses that had got out of control and some nepeta.

I still have a globe thistle that is in flower and the winter flowering heliotrope is doing awfully well.  Everything else is pretty dormant – perhaps unsurprising as it got down to 2C the other night.

Winter flowering heliotrope


One of the things my children got for Christmas was a crystal making kit (they got one each – I know that they’re not going to, like, share).  So on the third day of Christmas, I spent most of the day making crystals.

Here they are

The children got a bit fed up with this after the first, large, crystal solution had been made.  I like to think that my children are interested in science but most science is just waiting around for stuff to happen which hardly interest anyone.  I was tempted to leave the rest to another day but knew that I wouldn’t have enthusiasm to come back to it – plus I didn’t want a load of open packets of evil solution mixture of DOOM sitting around.

The kit includes lots of terribly serious warnings about the ingredients being terribly dangerous and / or likely to stain stuff.  The crystals also need a spot to sit undisturbed for about seven days, ideally at a temperature above 20C.  So I put them on the side in the library.

The kit came from a place called Cass Art, which is a lovely shop.

Here’s the box

It’s the fourth day of Christmas

So we get four calling birds.  I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas.  We’re still in the thick of it, with lots of people staying, leaving and arriving.

Wreath – I got the foam ring from Amazon

My wreath is starting to look a bit tired now but it looked terrific when I first made it.  I originally consulted Celebrate but Pippa Middleton more or less told me what I already knew – except she recommended that I add roses to it, which I didn’t have and even if I had, I probably wouldn’t waste roses on a Christmas wreath.  In the end, I used holly, teucrium, Californian lilac and rosemary.

Christmas cake – it’s a bit minimalist

I made the Christmas cake at the start of December and my husband has been in charge of feeding it with cherry brandy.  I ended up using ready rolled marzipan and royal icing – they are only sold for round cakes but were JUST big enough to cover my (slightly larger) square cake.


We are coming to the time of year where my front room looks almost exactly like an Amazon warehouse.  I am happy to take in parcels for my neighbours – it’s kind and, well, neighbourly.  There are quite a few younger people on my street who seem to work full time plus hours and it isn’t such a hardship to say yes to the delivery guy (who probably has a terrible job and loads of parcels to deliver within mere minutes).

However, I am mildly irritated with the owner of one parcel.

Here it is

I took it from a panicking delivery driver who was running late.  Problem was, the label said:

“Jack Ryan (not his real name), Basement Flat – push the bottom buzzer hard, [My postcode]”

And that was it. Since I don’t actually know Jack Ryan, this kind of left me with a problem.  My street includes a whole bunch of houses that have been converted into flats (including basement flats) and I was imaging having to write out 15 to 20 notes to ask if the parcel was for that address.

So, I started off Googling Jack Ryan and got a result at Imperial College – I had a look at his LinkedIn profile and he looked like the sort of person who might live in a flat on my street.  I emailed him with a picture of the label and asked whether it was for him.  Then, when I didn’t hear back from him, I rang him (at work).  The Jack Ryan I got was kind and actually quite appreciative … however, he doesn’t live on my street (or even in north London) so it wasn’t for him.

Then I did a bit of Facebook stalking and sent messages to the two Jack Ryans I found who live in London.  Then I posted on NextDoor to see whether anyone knew him.  I fretted over it a bit and my Mum told me that it was using up too much headspace and I should just open the parcel to see whether it had a delivery note.  I did this (even though I suspect it is illegal to do so) but there was no such note.  I tweeted Amazon to see whether they knew who it should be delivered to.(they said that, as I am not the person who it is addressed to, they can’t tell me).

I went for coffee with a friend who said “For heaven’s sake, this is ridiculous.  Just take it to the Post Office and mark it Return To Sender”.  I was just about to do so when I got a response from one of the Jack Ryans on Facebook to say “Thanks for the message will come and collect ASAP”.  Turns out the delivery driver had put the while you were out card through the right door, totally by chance.  I’d been fretting with no need.  So Jack Ryan said that he was away but his housemate would come and collect.

And he hasn’t bloody come to collect it.

Sorry – this was a bit of a dull post.  I just wanted a whinge.


It is too early for Christmas

However, I have stocked up on a load of wrapping paper and a couple of advent calendars.  I usually buy lots of fairly neutral wrapping paper at Christmas and then can use it throughout the year.  There’s a thing in The Spike about wrapping paper, which is worth a read.  I was tempted to start using ribbon after reading it (and looking at the Pinterest photos) but then decided that as I have managed to get to now not being the sort of person who uses ribbon, I won’t start now.  I mean, I still use envelope labels for the from / to on the presents.

I probably won’t use all this right away
Here are the Advent Calendars

I got the advent calendars from After Noah.  This, thank goodness, is still going and hasn’t been made into an estate agent or scent shop.

On the bus this morning, there was a couple having really rather a vicious argument about Christmas.  I didn’t get the entire thing but the gist was that she wanted them both to go to her family at Christmas.  I would have been rather sympathetic but she was loud, passive aggressive and it was terrible trying NOT to stare at them.

The Christmas-cards-designed-by-a-child have come back from school so I guess I’d better start writing them soon.  Perhaps I should clear all the stuff off the mantelpieces too.

Garden at the end of November

This weekend I did a bit more of the Autumn clearing work.  I’m pretty much finished, except that my hydrangeas still have their brown flowerhead on.  I think Kim once said that the flowerhead help to protect the plant so I might leave them there until February.

Herb garden

The herb garden is looking a bit sparse but I hope that it will perk up once we get back into Spring.  I need to put a load of wood chip down, which I’ll do next time.

The slugs have eaten this pelargonium
This is still pretty (and there are still some bees around to enjoy it)
Rose garden

I spent ages clearing out the weeds from the rose garden.  It’s the sort of job that I always think is going to take about twenty minutes and then I ended up filling a builder’s sack (which is yet to go to the dump).

The foxgloves are doing quite well
Lawn is covered in mushrooms
The Japanese garden is looking quite bare but I like it
Sweet violets. I tried to grow these from seed but it didn’t work. My gardener brought me a tray of them (he’d had more success in his garden). I’d assumed they wouldn’t survive but they are doing really well