Slow & Simple Ideas - April & May

Hello there! We've had a beautiful few days here in Leeds and I hope it is the same with you wherever you are. I'm still not one hundred percent better from the Costochondritis but I have been improving. I've been working on a few nice bits and pieces and I'll share more on those soon but for now here are some ways to help you slow down, simplify and most important of all, just enjoy the glorious months of April and May.  

1/ Keep it simple and seasonal in the kitchen - Whoop, whoop, asparagus season is here! Try not to buy it at any other time during the year as it needs to be picked and eaten pretty much straight away to properly enjoy the flavour. Seek out English asparagus from the greengrocer, farmers market or ideally find a local grower. For just a few short weeks I'll be indulging in the green stuff and consequently holding my nose every time I wee (know what I mean?). But it's totally worth the lingering aroma in the bathroom and these are a few of my favourite ways to eat asparagus as a main meal:

We've had this several times over the last few weeks as you can throw in any mix of vegetables you like but with the addition of roasted asparagus and red pepper this is my idea of heaven in a bowl - Gnocchi with spinach and walnut pesto with caramelised leeks.  

Roasted asparagus & feta pizza - one of my own creations and the added saltiness of the feta works so well with the roasted asparagus. 

Asparagus minestrone with cannellini beans - simple and extremely nutritious as lunch or a light supper 

A perfect Friday night meal is a bowl of risotto and a big glass of white wine - asparagus, lemon and pecorino risotto (although we use the Italian Hard Cheese substitute as it is vegetarian). 

It's also time to pick up some of the first outdoor grown rhubarb and we've made this simply divine rhubarb, vanilla and almond lattice tart this weekend. It's time consuming, but oh so worth it as a Saturday night treat. 

2/ Keep it simple in the garden - If you want to make up hanging baskets and pots with bedding plants don't do it yet as there is still a good chance that the UK will have cold nights.  A  hard ground frost can kill all those new petunias or geraniums. It's better to wait until after the May Day Bank Holiday to put out hanging baskets or fill up pots with these more tender plants.  If you have already planted them out try and cover them with some horticultural fleece as next week the forecast doesn't look very good, possibly even bringing some snow flurries. And rather than buying plants at the supermarket or one of the large chain DIY stores, buy them from a local or independent nursery. They tend to have more unusual varieties as well as specialist knowledge in how to grow things. Yesterday I called at one of my favourite nurseries in West Yorkshire where I picked up some locally grown and unique sweet peas exclusive to the nursery. 

If you want to encourage more wildlife in to your garden then pop over to one of my favourite garden blogs - Franklyn + Vincent.  Sarah has made this bird bath and stool and it is amazing. I'm going to give it a try next weekend. I'm  also going to plant up some old wooden crates with some wildflower plants I bought yesterday. Perfect for the bees and other pollinators come summer. 

3/ Natural Home - Evil creatures of Satan (aka moths) are creating havoc for many of us in Spring as they hatch more of their evil brood. One of the best ways to get rid of them is to dip cotton balls in lavender essential oil and pop them in wardrobes, storage boxes, under sofas etc. They are not big fans of fresh mint either, so if you are growing a pot in the back garden, tear off some leaves and place them into hidden nooks an crannies where moths like to lurk (and terrify me). 

It's also time to start giving your indoor greenery a liquid feed to give them some extra nourishment during their growing period. This is a handy link if you are needing some guidance on when and what to feed different varieties. 

4/ Go Slow Outdoors  - Well April and May for me are definitely all about the bluebells in the woods. Country Life have compiled a nice list of where to see showstopping displays of bluebells in the UK as do the National Trust (England/Wales).  If you live in West Yorkshire then my absolute favourite place to see them is Middleton Woods in Ilkley, where the photographs above were taken.  If you spot some then please do participate in the Big Bluebell Watch with the Woodland Trust and if  you need help with identifying whether the bluebells are native or non-native, then there is also a handy guide of how to tell them apart here

I've also discovered the Woodland Trust Nature Calendar where they ask you to participate throughout the seasons to help identify key moments and species. I'm joining in with Spring Watch to record the blackbirds that are nesting in our garden. It's been fascinating watching them gather material in their beaks to take back to the nest. I do long for some baby blackbirds. 

5/ Go foraging - Wild garlic - Sigh. It looks beautiful with the white flower heads glittering in the sunshine, but I truly hate the stuff! The smell of any garlic makes me want to vomit. And if I eat it, that makes me feel sick too. There is a patch of wild garlic near me that I have to avoid for weeks or drive past it with the windows closed and my hand over my mouth. Clearly I'm a vampire.....But if you like the stuff then The Woodland Trust have a lovely recipe for wild garlic pesto and how to forage for it responsibly. You can check that out here. And these wild garlic bhajis sound pretty interesting if you fancy giving them a go too. Enjoy, but stay well back from me please .......... 

6/ Switch off - I find social media so overwhelming at times that I have to take a break from it. Sometimes for a day or two, sometimes longer. I don't have the urge to share every single aspect of my life and I find much of the content on Instagram sadly lacking in inspiration. Instead I find myself turning to inspirational podcasts. Here are a few of my current favourites that have made me laugh, made me cry, made me think: 

* Nerdist podcast - I've listened to lots of these whilst editing photo shoots, cleaning the house, walking, just lying on the sofa.....the hosts are funny, although often annoying as they can be a bit loud but the guests can offer up a real insight into the creative process. My absolute favourite episodes have been with Sarah-Jessica Parker who simply blew me away with the stories of her childhood and Tom Hanks who was both charming and utterly hilarious. I found both extremely down-to-earth and happy to chat about the simplest things in life that gave them the greatest pleasure and a way of living that stayed with them no matter how successful they were. 

* Slow Home podcast - I never miss an episode of this and I know that I bang on about it all the time. This month Brooke and Ben are covering the story of their 'why' and listening to them read out their  'eulogies' was heart wrenching and I shed a real tear or two along with them. If you want to really understand slow and simple living, this is the podcast to listen to. Also, Brooke's book 'Destination Simple' is out on the fourth of May in the UK and I can't wait to read it.

And that's my six slow and simple ways for April and May. Hope you find them useful!