Sweet peas in cartons for July July 28 2014

I’m still stunned by the glorious weather we’re experiencing in the UK this year. Heat, heat, heat, then a massive thunderstorm to shake us up.

I’ve been spending a lot of time outside on the balcony (fire escape) and have made it into a real little garden this year. Dozens of brightly coloured sweet peas, a beautiful margarite bush, crochet bunting, and each time I sit on the fire escape, I’ll lay out a little straw mat, a vase or two of flowers and make myself a cool drink.

It’s the perfect place for reading, drinking cocktails and chatting with friends, and when the rain comes it’s so enjoyable sitting on my bed watching the big fat raindrops plop onto the sweet pea petals. 

(P.S. Read about how I sowed the sweet peas back in March.)



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The Downpour - Damson Vodka Cocktail July 25 2014

It's been a heady few weeks in the UK. Like a summer in Europe...scorching sun for days on end followed by glorious thunderstorms, the likes of which we haven't seen in years.


After a number of hot, sticky days, it poured it down in Brighton today, giving the gardens (and us) a real soaking.

Sat in the flat watching the rain fall I found inspiration for this evening's cocktail, which I will name "The Downpour".

Shake 50ml Sipsmith Damson Vodka, a scoop of elderflower sorbet (preferably foraged and homemade back in June) and a dash of Hella Bitters vigourously over ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a sprinkling of pink peppercorns and a grind of black pepper. 

(We picked up the peppercorns in Spain earlier this year. You can buy a little set of G&T garnishes which includes juniper berries, cardamom pods, hibiscus flowers and pink peppercorns. They make such a special addition to your G&T.)

Anyway...go and get yourself drenched in one of these!

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What You Sow summer reads August 05 2013

Here at What You Sow HQ I’ve been using the wonderful weather as an opportunity not only to work on gardening and craft projects but also to sit in the sun and do some reading. As the summer shows only the slightest signs of abating, and many will have holidays planned, I thought now might be a good time to think about some timely, sunny and green reading for the next few months. So I asked @jonathas to contribute a few suggestions of summer reads for you to explore.

The first recommendation is Melissa Harrison’s cracking debut novel, ‘Clay’, which is a perfect read for the green fingered and the environmentally aware. Charting a year in the life of a small London park and the ways in which the lives of a small group of characters develop over that time, it’s terribly moving and full of beautiful and inspiring descriptions of nature. The book is centred around the relationship between TC, a young boy who seeks solace in the wildlife around him and Josef, a Polish migrant who has left behind his life as a farmer to work in one of South London’s neglected high streets. Beautifully written and very affecting, the book is guaranteed to make you want to get out into a green space and learn the names of the trees that surround you in your daily life.

Another book that crackles with evocative descriptions of nature is Evie Wyld’s terrific ‘All The Birds, Singing’, which somehow failed to get onto the Booker Prize shortlist week. Like Clay, the wildlife in this book is a far cry from the pastoral idyll; set partly in an Australian outback which crackles with danger and partly on a remote Scottish Island, this book is mysterious and inventive, lit up by lyrical prose but containing scenes that provoke sharp intakes of breath. Like Clay, it’s only available at hardback at the moment, but it’s absolutely worth the investment. 

In paperback, Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ delivers on a promise of evoking a calmer picture of the natural world. Though set in turbulent times (the book tells the story of a Japanese gardener exiled in Malaysia during the violent Malayan Conflict after WWII), it is really the story of how through discipline and artistry the act of gardening can impose order and create a profound contentment and reconciliation with the past, as well as express a multitude of complex emotions. Rich in metaphor and stately in tone, the book also explores the cultural impact of tea, tattooing and zen Buddhism.

A novel as clear and clean as the ringing of a bell, Deborah Levy’s touch on the marvellous ‘Swimming Home’ is a little less green fingered; but the book still contains plenty of beautiful images, such as the comparison of a naked girl in water to a bear swimming, and a lovely description of a centipede examined clambering out of a bucket. The book concerns a middle class family’s holiday in France being interrupted by the arrival of the enigmatic, cinematic Kitty Finch, who places all kinds of strain on the family dynamic. Deborah Levy wrote a similarly wonderful collection of stories this year too, Black Vodka. Both are worth checking out.

And if the above all sound a bit rich in metaphor and literary styling, I couldn’t recommend a nicer summer book than Rebecca Harrington’s hilarious ‘Penelope’, a delightful university novel starring the eponymous heroine, who arrives at her first year at Harvard with little idea how to navigate campus, conversations, or make a spreadsheet for her ‘counting people’ class. If you’re a film-fan and loved the dry whimsy of Whit Stillman’s ‘Damsels in Distress’,the slightly sillier ‘Pitch Perfect’ or Greta Gerwig’s latest, ‘Frances Ha’, you’ll love this.

Hope you’re feeling inspired to read one of Jonathan’s recommendations! Grab a copy from your local independent bookstore if you can. And leave a comment or send me a tweet to tell me what you’re reading. 


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