Posts tagged Blogging
A Slow Approach to the Online World

Do you spend hours scrolling through social media or newly-discovered websites? Do you close down your laptop screen and realise you have no idea what you've been reading or what new information you have actually taken in? 

Recently I've been thinking over how much time I spend in the online world: browsing the internet, posting on this blog and on social media. While living for the moment and alongside nature is of great importance to me, I also thrive on educating and inspiring others, and one of the best places to do this is online. Blogging and running an online business has opened so many doors for me, and has pushed me to live the lifestyle I desire, encouraging and guiding me along with my double-stacked bookshelves of hardbacks and novels at home. It's something that I was never really sure I would keep up with, but which now takes up much of my spare time in the evenings and at weekends, and as such the amount of time I spend in the online world seems to be increasing.

My slow approach to life, though, doesn't always go hand-in-hand with this use of technology, and I find it a useful exercise to remind myself of my online priorities to ensure I don't get carried away and lose sight of what I really come online to achieve.

As such, I don't post regularly on all social media sites. I have no idea what Periscope is, or what Google+ is for. I pin, but not regularly, and am not the sort of person to post every single moment of my life on Instagram. I tweet, post photographs of beautiful flowers and try to connect as much as possible with people rather than focus too heavily on building a following. Of course, having a certain amount of followers is beneficial when you want to reach out to people with a new offering, but really I'd rather have 10 people who loved what I was writing about, 10 people who took the time to engage with the content and maybe even send an email over to thank me, than 1000 people who click on it once and don't even bother to skim read what's there.

For me the best part of blogging is getting that email or that comment that shows I've really reached out to someone, or I've inspired them to live the life they desire, rather than the one society dictates they should follow. It's difficult sometimes to set an aim for what we do, but if I were to do such a thing for Creative Countryside, my aim would be to inspire, guide and encourage you to forget what everyone else is doing online and focus on life's simple pleasures, making time for what you love instead of getting caught in the whirlwind of modern life. If something new comes along, don't be afraid to say - no thanks, not this time. 

You might be reading this post thinking that yes, actually, you probably do spend longer than you'd like online without ever really achieving anything. If this sounds like you, then you might like to try out these tips for approaching the online world a little more slowly:

  1. Restrict yourself to just 3 social media sites that you post on regularly. I have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and keeping up with these 3 can sometimes be an uphill struggle; coping with any more is just a waste of my time.
  2. Decide on when you want to be online and set aside a certain amount of time to spend - have a limit and make sure you stick to it (I find an hour is sufficient for any kind of social media / blog reading).
  3. If you can do it offline, make the switch. If I can give someone a call rather than messaging them online then I will do. If I can draft a post by hand rather than typing frantically straight into the new post window then I will do. Connect with the real world whenever possible.
  4. If you're experiencing online overload and feel fatigued with the amount of time you've spent browsing then escape outdoors as soon as possible. Go for a walk and leave your phone at home; forget about the fact you haven't commented on that post you wanted to, or the fact you've forgotten to tweet about your new course - just leave those stresses behind and when you come back you'll be refreshed and ready to start again.
  5. Make the time you do spend online valuable: remember to connect with people rather than a faceless follower. Focus on building relationships rather than a following and the rest will come naturally (one of the most important things I've realised this past year!).

So don't ever expect to see me much over on social media, and you won't find me posting on here every day, but I hope that when I do post or connect about anything that there's a meaning behind it.

Why Blogging with the Seasons is the Key to Success

I’ll let you into a secret: every month, you could increase your blog readership, guarantee inspiration and enhance your creativity through just one simple change. It’s not difficult to implement, and I’ll make it even easier for you with a helpful reference guide. Sound good?

All you have to do is post relevant, seasonal content.

That’s it!

So why should I be doing this again?

If you’ve ever looked at trending Twitter hashtags, you’ll know that people mostly communicate about up-to-date issues and events, and on social media sites your content is much more likely to be noticed if you follow suit. Let’s use my eat seasonably post series as an example: this set of posts go out monthly and run through everything that is good to eat during those 4 (or so) weeks, and they frequently outperform other content. The best thing about it is that I never intentionally set out to run this as an ongoing series, and the main reason I initially started writing was to remind myself what I should be shopping for. As the posts evolved and improved in terms of content, readers began to let me know how useful they found them, advising that they also use the posts inspiration for their monthly meal plans.

Readership aside, choosing to blog with the seasons is also a way to guarantee a source of inspiration. Let’s imagine you’re reaching the end of May and are running out of ideas on what to post about. You might have an inkling of an idea or a theme in mind but nothing seems to be formulating. The solution? Make it relevant and seasonal.

How does this all link to my blog?

May is the time for tall spindly stems of cow parsley, for fields that glow yellow, for maypoles and floral garlands and for a gradual warming of the earth. So if you’re a lifestyle blogger get out and enjoy the best that the British countryside has to offer at this time of year; take photographs of morning walks, capture outfits in a yellow field rather than in front of a brick wall and take part in seasonal events. If you’re a creative blogger then make something with a seasonal slant (you’ll find more ideas over here) or simply use colours and shapes from nature to guide your design process. If you’re a food blogger then you’ve got it easy! Simply choose recipes with seasonal ingredients, or visit restaurants that serve seasonal and local food.

It can be so easy to forget what’s on our doorsteps once we get embroiled into creating blogging content that must be like this, or should really contain that, but if you alter your focus and instead shift to what you see, smell or hear from the natural word, there will always be something new to discover.

Won’t everyone be posting the same things then?

In short – no! What’s inspiring for one will do nothing for another. What sparks an interest in using colour creatively in one will inspire another to pick out structural features to design something new. You are unique, and therefore your outlook and approach to nature and the world around us will also be. Just don’t be afraid to create something a bit different; those posts you’ve written but squirreled away because you’re afraid to share something that no one else really is, are often the best and most inspiring to your readers.

What other benefits are there to blogging with the seasons?

It’s not only your blog that will profit from your new-found focus; creative acts and your personal life will also flourish. At the beginning of each month I post about how to live seasonally, and throughout the month I will use that post as a guide for what I could (and would love) to be doing. So in May so far I’ve created and delivered a May Day posy, I’ve orchestrated a huge spring clean and I’ve written about seasonal wildflowers and asparagus (as well as eating quite a few stalks too). It’s not about forcing yourself to write or create something you wouldn’t normally; it’s simply a way of guiding your lifestyle and blog to follow a more natural route aligned with seasonal change.

How do I know what to look out for?

If you’ve been reading and have decided that while this all sounds lovely and interesting, you’ve got no idea how to shift your focus and start to blog with the seasons, then panic not, for I’ve created a handy reference guide for you. It covers what to look out for in each season and details any celebrations / events that may also be of interest.

BONUS: Not sure what happens when in the seasonal calendar? You need my month-by-month guide.

If you’re a creative as well as a blogger (and let’s face it, most of us are both!) then you might also like my seasonal creativity eBook – get it over here if you’re looking for even more inspiration.

10 Simple Living Blogs You Should Be Reading

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Living simply is an ethos and way of life for us: we try to live consciously and by the seasons, growing our own food and making use of what we have, but it isn't easy. Sometimes you need an inspiring post to motivate you to get off the sofa and actually get on with stuff. Sometimes you desire affirmation that this is the way of life you want to adopt. Most of the time I find this in the books and blogs I read, and in today's post I'm sharing 10 of my favourite simple living blogs that you really should be reading...

  1. Mitenska - Sarah's blog has been a favourite of mine for quite some time. She documents her life in the blustery north with images of spectacular scenery, snippets from her life as a mum and seasonal posts that always feel so real (as well as being beautiful - she's got the perfect balance). Favourite post: Elegant Economy: baking
  2. The Frugal Cottage - Nicola is not only the writer of a hugely helpful blog dealing with all matters frugal, she is also a close friend that I have known for a number of years. Her positive posts offer advice on budgeting, living simply in order to save and long-term goals for the future which include early retirement.  Favourite post: How to Achieve a Good Work/Life Balance
  3. House of Humble - Katie and Reuben have just had a baby so (inevitably) posts are infrequent at the moment, but the archived content is so wonderful for this blog that you'll still be kept happy. Posting on steps to a simple life, planting vegetables and living frugally, this is one inspiring space. Favourite post: It's OK to be Happy With a Quiet Life
  4. Cinnamon Girl - Posts are often infrequent but oh so wonderful when they do appear. Focusing on rearing animals, growing your own and family life, these images tell a story that will make you want to follow your dreams. Favourite post: First Snow
  5. Sophie Isobel Asher - After a recent name change this blog seems to have gone from strength to strength. A source of constant inspiration for practical tips and links to other helpful sites. Favourite post: Staying on Track with Simple Living Goals
  6. Nina Nixon - Nina's blog is full to the brim of evocative, seasonal images and carefully crafted words. Her approach is always a little bit different, and that's what I love about heading over to this space. Favourite post: Flow
  7. Hannah's Homespun Life - A recent addition to my reading list, Hannah's focus on simple living and homespun pleasures makes for a refreshing read. I also discovered Pretty Nostalgic through Hannah, which is another reason to love her blog! Favourite post: Lazy Girl's Bara Brith
  8. Curlew Country - The header for Steph's blog promises countryside bliss, and believe me you won't be disappointed. With images of walks in the countryside and family life, if you don't live in a rural area this blog will make you want to move. Favourite post: Hill Country
  9. Hugo and Elsa - Recipes that will make you want to get cooking right away and and images filled with beautiful light are the order of the day over at Michelle's blog. Her book - A Table in the Orchard - will be released soon and has gone straight to the top of my wish list. Favourite post: A Camping Master List
  10. Little House Living - A treasure trove of helpful hints, how-to posts and frugal living tips - pretty much anything you need help with will be covered here. Favourite post: The Homemaker's Creed

Do you have any favourite simple living blogs that you follow?

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One Year!

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I can't quite believe it has been a year since my first post went live and I started writing for Creative Countryside (despite being a little late to the blogging party!). An image of wonderfully yellow daffodils for St David's Day heralded the start of a year long quest to keep a record of my life in the Lincolnshire countryside.

The blog underwent a number of design revamps in the first few months, and I could never quite find my niche until I dedicated time and energy to what I really wanted it to represent and why I wanted to write a blog in the first place. Creative Countryside evolved into what I hope is an inspirational fusion of rural life with creative pursuits. Living the simple life is a thread that weaves through all posts and allows the writing and images to focus on the positives that calling the countryside ‘home’ can offer; from picking fresh produce to baking up a storm.

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I want to take this moment to thank each and every one of you lovely people reading this, whether you are a regular reader or a new visitor, I am so grateful for you taking the time to stay a little while. Birthdays and anniversaries often provoke us to look forward to the future and consider what we would like to achieve, so with that in mind I am looking for your help and feedback: what do you want to see on these pages? Creative Countryside is a personal blog and as such I only write posts because I feel passionate about the subject, or want to record a specific memory,  but I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't be wonderful to have a few more readers.

I'd love for you to let me know what kind of posts you prefer (visits? books? recipes? lists? crafts? gardening?) and if there's anything else you'd like to see here that would fit with the blog's ethos and focus on creativity and living in the countryside. Any suggestions and/or comments would be very gratefully received! In the mean time, I'm going to get on with a little baking, for what's a birthday without cake?!

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A Seasonal Life

Living life by the seasons isn't something I've always appreciated. Despite the fact my parents have always lived in a similar way, as a teenager and even into my very early twenties it wasn't top of my agenda; I was distracted by the dreams and desires of others. Although this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, I neglected to consider what I really deemed important in life and what made me truly happy. I will readily admit that I'm not a positive person every minute of every day; I fall into spells of blue moods, get riled up when things don't quite go to plan and snap at others if I'm tired. But no one is perfect. Choosing to live a seasonal life has without a doubt improved my health, my mood, my relationships and my  happiness.

There isn't a one-formula-fits-all for living seasonally, but there are certain principles which weave their way through the lifestyle. Eating what's currently being picked on English soil is one. Not only is the taste superior but your bank balance will thank you throughout the year, especially if you shop locally as well.

Another is to understand and appreciate what makes each season so different, and revel in it. Spring brings new life, a freshness that is missing from the other seasons, and the chance to breathe into the year. The sky is often crisp and light and it is the perfect time of year to sow seeds, plant ideas in preparation for later in the year. Spring is also about faith: faith that the seedlings will turn into magnificent flowers and succulent produce; faith that the ideas you plan for today will succeed tomorrow; and faith that after a deep, dark period of the year there is hope of fresh, new life at the end of it.

Summer is the season of hard toil, long days, and feeling the heat of the sun on your skin. It's also about long evening walks and stargazing without a jumper, a glass of something sweet in hand and the warmth of the day still tingling on your cheeks. Summer is a time to relish the green of the English landscape - whether hiking up a mountain or meandering through a meadow surrounded by the hum of bees, the colour seeps into all the eye surveys.

Then, quite suddenly, things turn. Autumn creeps upon us and turns the leaves crimson and brown, turns the garden into a patchwork quilt and nips the hairs on the back of our necks in a morning. Haystacks litter the horizon, glinting as the late afternoon sun slowly seeps away. It's a time to preserve both our memories of summer and the berries in the hedgerows, and to take stock and prepare for the final stretch of the year.

The winter months are spent squirrelled away, taking solace from the elements in front of a roaring fire. The air is cold, menacing even, but the wind and snow form an impressive backdrop to cheerful carols and celebrations with friends and family. It's the time of year to open a few books and be creative, to return from a long frosty walk to a hot cinnamon tea and admire the persistence of nature through the cruellest of weathers.

I honestly could not imagine living anywhere that did not ebb and flow with the seasons. My house looks different in every one; I look different too. Until returning to live in the countryside I didn't fully understand how much life can be led by these changes, but letting nature dictate certain parts of your life has a strong sense of primitive purpose. The outside world has, and always will, alter with the year, so why shouldn't we?

The Lovely List
The Lovely List

Good morning! I hope you've all survived the thunderstorms and are enjoying your weekends. We were hit by a deluge of water last night, so my plans for a bit of photography and some work in the garden have been thwarted by the gloomy drizzle that's currently splashing at my windows. Such is life! I have some time off scheduled soon so I'm focusing on that instead, and getting excited about plans for the rest of the summer; are you doing anything much?

Reading up for this week's lovely list I discovered something else that I really need to add to my big summer list. What's on yours?

Want a healthy breakfast that delivers big on taste too? This is for you.

There has been a whole load of loveliness over at Daydreams of Summertime this week; this post makes me want to visit Croatia again. Right now.

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Last time I went was in 2010 with my sister on our inter-railing trip around Europe. We stopped off in Split for a couple of nights and it was exactly what we needed after having traipsed around northern European cities in the rain (summer came late that year!). The sun was hot, the sea was clearer and brighter than I had ever seen, and we were - for that short time - very happy travellers.

Rhubarb upside down yoghurt cake? Yes please!

If you missed it, this week's most popular post included 5 simple tips to improve your blog writing. Looking for even more advice? Check out 20 more tips here.

Finally, have you ever considered blogger business cards? Frankie shows her new cards to the world here.

What's been gracing your screens this week?

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P.S. Check out last week's lovely list here.

5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Blog Writing

Blogging is - for me at least - all about the writing. Don't get me wrong, I always try to take and choose beautiful images to accompany my posts, and some of them are very image-heavy, but really the reason I started blogging was to write more; to hone my writing skills. I am acutely aware, however, that many people fall into blogging for entirely different reasons: to document their lives; to be visually creative; to share with others - and often the writing can take a back seat. But really, it's easy.

5 simple tips improve blog writing

  1. Check carefully for general accuracy. Ensure you aren't missing any punctuation and also that you use the correct there/their/there, your/you're, to/too/two etc. Getting these wrong can be a real turn off for readers.
  2. Vary the length of your sentences. I use semi-colons and colons galore in order to vary my sentences but it's enough to simply write some long and some short ones. It sounds simple, but it's common to write a number of sentences of similar lengths without realising, and to a reader it can become stilted and dull to follow.
  3. Use an informal tone (generally). You might be able to personify every object you describe, or use a combination of six sophisticated adjectives, but if it sounds forced and formal, you'll put people off. Save this sort of language for more descriptive posts or personal writing.
  4. Use short paragraphs. When I'm reading a book, I'm all for an extended paragraph here and there, but my blog reading tends to take place during snatched moments of the day and sometimes (I admit) I avoid a post if it's just too lengthy. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and often posts with a serious tone lend themselves to lengthier content.
  5. Be honest and consistent. There's no point in writing a post that you're unsure about. It comes across this way to a reader, but also lends itself to inconsistencies and contradictions within the writing. Stick to what you know and enjoy to write about and this one will work itself out.

See? Really simple! Have you got any other basic blog writing tips you'd like to share?

Blog Signature P.S. For more inspiration, prompts and advice head over to my 'Writing' Pinterest board.

Follow Creative Countryside's board Writing on Pinterest.

The Lovely List

Hello and happy Sunday! I hope you've had a great weekend so far, mine has been lovely. Friday night was spent with family eating and drinking al-fresco and enjoying the warmth of the summer sun that has lingered most days this week. Saturday was even more glorious weather-wise and Mr CC and I tackled the complete and utter mess that our garden has become after a few (busy) weeks of neglect, and I feel so much better now it's getting sorted. By far the most exciting part of the weekend, though, has been booking a few days away to the Lake District next month. And we're staying in a tipi right next to a lake. A tipi!

hello summer

But enough of my holiday plans, let's that a look at what's been floating-my-boat in the blog world this week...

First up is an intriguing and original post on food memories (notably strawberry jam) from the wonderful Sarah over at Mitenska - her blog is full of beautiful images and her writing style is so easy to enjoy that I urge you to check it out if you haven't already.

If the heat's getting to you, why not try some violet fizz with floral ice cubes?

Roses. Just because.

Somewhere new to add to my 'places to visit' list.

Lots of reading inspiration over at Circle of Pine Trees, including a life in France, a classic that I think I'm going to re-read soon and my own offering.

Finally, how are you doing with your summer wishlists? I'm planning to work on number 10 from mine this week.

Enjoy your Sundays!

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The Lovely List

Good  morning! How are we all today? I hope the rain is holding off and you're having a wonderful time eating strawberries and lazing in the sun. This week has been a mixed bag and has definitely improved as it has progressed, resulting in a slightly less stressed household just in time for Friday evening. I've been taking part in the Big Blogging Bootcamp this week from Rosalium; six days in and so far so good. I've been blogging for a little while now and I wanted to focus my energies on what's really important rather than whiling away my 'blogging time' with tweaking visuals and pondering post ideas. As such, you might start to see a few minor changes around here (I've managed to sort out the colour scheme and have altered the menu this week) but they won't be major. Have you been making any changes to things in your life recently?

Cart track in Upperaustria leads to the sky.

On my quest to improve I've been checking out lots of lovely new blogs, particularly ones that I wouldn't normally be drawn to, including the happy and healthy living focused Happily Polly. Her recipe for Raw Vegan Raspberry 'Cheesecake' sounds so intriguing that I'm going to have to try it.

On the theme of food, this Blue and Red Berry Ricotta Galette is something I definitely need in my life.

It's another recipe. But really - rose-soaked pistachio and lemon cake? Yes please.

These reasons plus many more are why I live the simple life.

One of my biggest beliefs in life and how we live our life as a reflection of that, is that simple living is the key to happiness and fulfilment.

I love Lincolnshire, so much so that I can't imagine living anywhere else. And why would I when it boasts Lincolnshire sausages, the rolling Wolds and fields and fields of spectacular countryside to explore? Looking for more reasons? Check out Emma's love for the county here.

Have you found any delectable recipes or have you read any posts you'd like to recommend this week?

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P.S. Check out last week's Lovely List for some beautiful evening photographs and a link to blogging greatness.

June in Pictures
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This month has really felt like summer, and it's got me excited for the weeks ahead that I hope to fill will alfresco dining and relaxed socialising. Looking back over this month's photos has made me smile, which is what this blogging and photography lark is all about really, isn't it?

Here's my month (from top left): a vibrant blue hue plastering the Lincoln skyline; no countryside garden is complete without a white, wooden gate; my mantra for the month - Eat, Drink & Be Merry; strawberries in the early morning sunshine; so lovely to meet some new people at the #LincsBlogMeet; my sister's stunning engagement ring; warm Italian breads with a pesto dip; our home basking in the summer sunshine; and a well-deserved reward on one of our few evenings out.

What have you been up to this month? Has it felt like summer for you too?

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P.S. Want to know what I was up to last month? Check out May in Pictures.

So what's a blog meet all about?

Last weekend the delightful Bel from Journeys are my Diary and Amy from Cocktails in Teacups hosted the very first #LincsBlogMeet. Having never attended an event like this before, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but my did they deliver. The whole day was jam-packed full of activities, chances to get to know other bloggers and exciting freebies, and I thought I'd give you a run-through of the day so you can appreciate its magnificence (and possibly feel inspired to attend a blogging event too!).

10am - Arrived at the train station and attempted to locate blogging tribe: pretty easy as I simply had to pick out the cameras and stylish outfits.

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10.30am - We were separated into small groups and given a photo challenge which enabled us to explore Lincoln and get to know others.

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11.30am - Arrived at our main venue: the Italian restaurant Ask (which I would highly recommend by the way - excellent choice and delicious food). Mingled and chatted with other bloggers. Pretty happy to find that the generous folk at Ask provided us all with cookbooks - I cannot wait to try some of the desserts!

12.00 noon - Talk from the lovely Una at Weleda about their product range. I especially liked the look of the citrus range and was thrilled to receive a body oil as part of our goody bags.

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12.30pm - Delicious pasta and delightful chat.

1.00pm - Our second talk of the meet with the wonderfully engaging and enthusiastic Julie from Boots. She informed about various ranges; it was refreshing to hear genuine advice about different products and Julie mentioned that in most medium/large Boots stores there is always an advisor on hand to do the same thing. She also brought us a mountain of products to try which I am greatly looking forward to.

1.20pm - The rest of the blog meet was spent dishing out raffle prizes and taking part in the beauty swap which Bel and Amy had organised - a creative idea that allowed everyone to leave with lots of beauty loveliness. I was lucky enough to win a prize - a £20 ASOS voucher courtesy of Emigration Group (thank you so much!) - and I've already started to browse the dresses!

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3.30pm - A full-to-the-brim goody bag with loveliness from: The Fragrance Shop, Neal & Wolf, Lipcote, Weleda, Lush, Benefit, Batiste, Lincolnshire Co-op, Paul Mitchell, Manuka Doctor, One Love Organics, Jewellery Ever After and Scarlett Fashion.

I had a wonderful time meeting lots of local bloggers and if you're thinking of attending a meet I'd say just go for it!

If you're looking for some new blogs to check out, why not give some of these attendees a try:

Charley from Ramblings of a Beauty Blogger, Anna from A Whole Lot of Chitty Chat, Naomi from Think Fashion, Siobhan from The Beauty Baker, Chloe from Alicia Deyes Writes, Kate from Pieces of Kate, Alex from Champagne and Lemonade, Lucy from Lucy Jane, Megan from Student Style, Jemma from Dreams of New York and Jemma from Bamboozle Beauty.

Happy reading!

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P.S. Check back later for a gorgeous Floral Friday post!

A Catch Up
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It seems strange that I haven't posted in a few days, almost like my creativity has been stifled somewhat without its usual outlet. I've come to rely on this blog as an opportunity to develop those writing skills that have festered over the past few years, that have been neglected without good reason. But there has been a reason for my online absence: a horrid cold that has lingered and interrupted what would have been a wonderful weekend full of sunshine and flowers.

It's not all doom and gloom though, and prior to my lapse in health, I had been enjoying the beauty of the countryside as we helter-skelter full steam ahead into the delights of early summer. Here are some of the wonders I've been admiring this month so far...

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The evocative smell of the zesty yellow oil seed rape that surrounds our cottage. I love winding my window down in the car and realising I'm nearly home. It also looks pretty spectacular in the late evening sunshine that falls softly on the fields; we've been trying to go for walks at this time of day to really make the most of the lighter nights.

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This lettuce that has erupted what seems like overnight is bringing me so much joy right now. The plants that have been in the polytunnel have just started to accompany our evening meals, but the prospect of nipping out the front door for a few leaves is so exciting.

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Eating seasonally is something we try to do throughout the year, but it always seems so much easier once you've got over the 'hungry gap' between February and April and the rapture of the year's first asparagus is not to be beaten (except perhaps by the first strawberry). Mr CC cooked up a treat with homemade hollandaise sauce, grilled smoky bacon, asparagus and poached duck eggs on toast. I was in food heaven.

How's your week so far? Done anything exciting?

CC x