The summer solstice is one of my favourite nights of the year. I love celebrating all the seasons - I drag branches into the house all year round and stick them in vases, fashion them into hoops and hang them on the wall, or suspend them from the ceiling. The girls have gotten accustomed to spotting a certain alert look in my eye when we’re in the park: “Oh no, Mummy, not another branch"!”, as I climb gingerly into a big pile of sticks left over from some tree trimming to rescue a silver birch branch on the basis that it will surely come in useful for something one day.
I love planting things in the garden and watching them grow, and then bringing them inside to either eat them, or watch them bloom and then wither, before they go back on the compost heap to turn into soil and sustain more life.
I love celebrating the first signs of Spring, Easter, the first falling of the autumn leaves, Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas with special meals, parties, decorations and traditions.
And of course I love camping, which has got to be the ultimate way to blend the indoor and outdoor life and embrace the summer season: sand, smoke, mud, rain, sweat and all :-)
But one of my favourite nights is the summer solstice - the longest day of the year, where we can take a moment to feel a sense of magical connection to our beautiful earth. In the form of Mermaid gin, floral headbands, 90s dance music and rainbow bonfires, of course.
We didn’t necessarily mean to have a party, it was intended to be a small, informal gathering of local families, but I suppose when you have about 40 people over, armed with food, drink and an African drum, it’s pretty much a party by definition.
Whenever we throw parties, we usually ask everyone to bring a dish of some kind. I usually don’t co-ordinate what people bring; I prefer a nice surprise :-) The exception to this principle is our annual Bonfire Party, where it wouldn’t be very helpful to have twenty pots of chilli and no marshmallows.
For our solstice party, we ended up with a generous cheese board, fennel risotto, Italian baked rice (my contribution), nicoise salad, rice salad, pizza, sausage rolls, olive bread, and pasta made by our Italian friend Jess with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and black olives. Yum! Plus lots of sweets for the kids, obviously. I also baked chocolate chip cookies and served them warm from the oven, but there are no photographs of said cookies as they all got eaten too quickly.
Time to light the bonfire! We had saved most of the branches from our Christmas tree for this very purpose - I’ve never burned spruce before, and it crackled most excitingly and smelled amazing.
My husband had one job - get the branches ready for the bonfire. He completely forgot to do this, so niftily dealt with the problem of the spruce branches being too large for our Weber (improvised fire pit) by grabbing our jigsaw from the cellar and cutting the overhanging ends down to size while the other end was ablaze. Don’t try this at home. Obviously. I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t try to attach the jigsaw to an extendable pole, which is his favourite DIY hack at the moment?
Honestly, how lucky are we to live here.
We threw rainbow crystals onto the bonfire to turn the flames turquoise.
How crazy is this photo? This was about 10pm - the house was silhouetted against a brilliant blue sky, and illuminated hot pink internally with our Phillips Hue lighting system.
We’ve had these olive trees for over ten years - they’re in pots and doing pretty well. We need to build massive planters for them to see if they’ll grow even bigger. I just love how they look at night time with the uplighters.
Our friend Jeremy took this photo - thanks J, you’re a much better photographer than me :-) It’s also nice to actually be in the pictures for a change - that’s me on the right clutching a Mermaid gin.
The Ellie Cashman wallpaper sported a new look for the occasion.
By midnight we had the house to ourselves, which wasn’t a bad effort considering everyone had small people with them. My husband and I organise party responsibilities as follows - I do everything up until the point of clean-up (apart from the bonfires and braais clause), and then he takes over while I sit in a chair and drink gin. We both hate coming down the next day and finding total carnage, so always try to round up the glasses and put the dishwashers on before falling into bed.
What a lovely party. The next one will be for our middle daughter’s birthday in July - twenty kids and lots of sugar. Wish us luck!