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Lazy Days of Summer

by Barbara Payne(more info)

listed in aromatherapy, originally published in issue 149 - July 2008

When most people think of summer they think of ‘lazy’ days and yet, in summer, most of us get up earlier and go to bed later! It is probably this extension to our day that gives us time to be ‘lazy’.

In summer, I can usually find some time to do extra little things that make life more enjoyable. Here are some ideas, which enhance my joy of this season.

Those with gardens have the obvious pastime of gardening – but not the heavy digging kind. Pruning and deadheading are simple but satisfying jobs which result in longer flowering times, healthier plants and a neat garden. Collecting seeds and wrapping them in home-made seed packets is very agreeable. I make these from brown paper bags which keep the seeds in the dark. It saves money, makes one feel virtuously thrifty, but also gives hope of securing more flowers or herbs for the following year, (although I usually leave the bulk of the seeds for the birds). After packaging, the envelope is dated and inscribed with folk name and botanical name. Finally, it is stored in a seed box. A small decorative tin is ideal.

Being outside, among plants can make a person feel very creative. I like to write letters and my poetry outdoors. It seems to focus my energies on positive, civilized things.

Sharing summer and the garden with others is delightful. Students of aromatherapy came for over 13 years to my garden to enjoy and learn about the herbs as part of their botany sessions. The ‘outside room’ was often full of visitors, sitting, painting or smelling and examining the plants.

Theme Days

Themes are valuable for friendly gatherings. Last year I held a ‘rose day’ for friends. Visitors wore something the colour of a rose and we drank rose tea and ate rose cake. A posy of roses graced the small table. We drank from china decorated with roses. Afterwards guests made some rose hand cream to take home.

Rose Cake

Ingredients are, as for Victoria sponge.
Make cake mixture and when batter is completed, mix in three teaspoons of rose water, (available from supermarket’s cookery section)). Cook in the usual way.
Rose icing is made with one teaspoon of rose water instead of plain.
Cake can be cooked in a shallow rectangular tin to cut into ‘fingers’.

Rose Hand Cream

15 mls of unperfumed base cream
One drop of rose essential oil.
Mix together

In the early 1990s I taught clinical aromatherapy to nurses from several residential hospitals caring for those with severe learning disabilities. It was a pilot scheme, the first in the North of England. I taught theme days and these were very successful. One hospital, at the request of the patients, had them on a regular basis. They had lemon day, lime day, underwater day and so on. 

My daughter and I sometimes hold recipe afternoons. We devise a recipe and when we are satisfied with the ingredients, we prepare the dish. When the dish is completed, we test the results over a pot of tea in the garden. June and July give excellent opportunities for fruit recipes such as rhubarb or strawberries; both can be grown in pots for those without gardens. Summer flowers too can be incorporated into many recipes such as salads. Flowers such as rose and elderflower can be candied, made into tea, wine or cordials. There are many excellent books dealing with such subjects.

Recipe for Elderflower Cordial

15 heads of cleaned elderflower heads
4 washed and sliced lemons or limes
2 lbs sugar
1 ½ pints of boiling water
Put all ingredients into a sterilized bowl, cover and leave to stand for one to two days in a cool place.
Strain the mixture through fine gauze and put into glass preserve bottles.
Leave the mixture for two to three weeks. To serve, dilute with sparkling water or soda water and ice cubes. 
Poetry afternoons. Each guest brings a favourite poem, reads it and then explains why they like it. I feel this brings a bit of culture into my life and it is very enlightening!
Studying the flora in my garden is another favourite pursuit and this is so enjoyable to do in summer. Watching them grow, making notes and learning as much as I can about them. Painting and drawing them into my botany sketch pad helps me to understand their morphology, and I also like to use my spyglass to examine such details as stamens and patterns. This can give an indication of which insects are reliant upon these plants. I am fortunate enough to have a good microscope which shows up wonderful details, (second-hand ones are quite cheap to buy).

Indulging in a ‘lazy’ afternoon has endless possibilities; photography, recording bird song, sewing, flower pressing, conversation, whatever is your interest.

I wholeheartedly believe life is for enjoying so treat yourself to some quality time, you won’t regret it.

Jenny, my dear friend of 35 years passed away recently. We had shared many happy, ‘lazy’ afternoons together. I dedicate this piece to her.


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About Barbara Payne

Barbara Payne taught clinical aromatherapy in various hospitals in the North of England, for School of Health, University of Hull, and was principal of an IFA and IFPA accredited college of clinical aromatherapy, for many years. She served as an inspector and examiner and was Chair of Education for the ISPA, (now IFPA). Barbara had regular interviews with BBC radio and appeared on national television occasionally and lectured annually for the RHS. Having contributed to Positive Health over many years, Barbara has now decided to retire from her PH Expert Regular Column after Issue 154 in Jan 2009. She can be reached on Tel: 01482 835358;

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