Monday, 27 October 2014

Monday Happies


Once again I’m joining in with the very lovely Gillian.

I’ve finally cast on some new knitting. This time it’s a hat for me. I received the pattern and the wool as a gift last Christmas and then, of course, by the time I’d finished the dog for LittleR it was way too warm to even consider making a hat for winter. It’s an easy knit and is coming along apace. So much so I can already see the finishing line. Maybe I should’ve taken another picture of progress so far? Although it may be too warm for a hat. Although I’ve dredged the boots out of the wardrobe, I’ve actually been coatless today. Outside. In Leeds. At the end of October. The weather is unseasonably warm.

I used a birthday voucher for a trip to Bettys Cookery School last week. It was brilliant. Not only did I make some delicious dishes to take home I was well fed and watered during the day with lots of Betty’s cakes and biscuits. It was a smaller course than normal and I chose the ‘One Pot Wonders’ day – although there were so many tempting courses to choose from. I thought it would be better to try out some things I might actually cook again rather than a patisserie day or elegant entertaining – both brilliant but the former is too much faff for a school day and the latter unlikely to happen until my children leave home.
We ate like Kings for the next 3 days as the ABO and I tucked into; Lancashire hotpot, Steak and Mushroom Pudding (thanks to an IG cry out Sue saved me from a steaming faux pas) and a chicken, chorizo and bean stew. There were also Autumn fruit charlottes. And we didn’t have 2 each. With ice-cream on the same night. No not at all.

I’ve already recreated the Lancashire hotpot – well what I mean is as is often my way I’ve changed it completely but just used the potato topping with what I had in the freezer!! This time it was a hotpot with beef and veggies in the pot.

All this savoury cooking has meant I’ve needed some sweet treats to go with it. The ABO saw an interview with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall somewhere and was hankering after some of his ultra choc brownies (available in his new book). I resisted the book for about a week (I loved Everyday veg but wasn’t so keen on Three Good Things) but it has some interesting recipes in it and lots that can be adapted or are specifically for various ‘free’ diets (e.g. gluten free). 

The recipe for these brownies is gluten free but my supermarket didn’t have any rice flour or gluten free flour and as that isn’t a necessity in our house I just used regular flour. It didn’t seem to make a difference to the outcome. They were (please note use of past tense) very, very chocolatey. The recipe is available online here

The garden continues to surprise me. There are still roses about to bloom.

The blueberry leaves have turned the most gorgeous red.

And the chillies continue to ripen (until LittleR picks them and attempt to chop on one…fortunately she stopped before she bit into it!).

I’ve been browsing some seed catalogues and bulb seller websites and getting totally carried away.

Although I’m not usually a fan of the actual day (or the days after) the clocks change (one of my children thinks 4am is a newly acceptable time to put the lights on!), I’m trying to embrace it this year with more coffee opportunities and extra time awake to chat to BigR and read or knit especially as the ABO is on an early shift. Hopefully normal (by that I mean post 5am!) service will be resumed shortly.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Precious Things (2)

I love stationery and the associated bits and bobs. I’m not really fussy, a beautifully fabric covered notebook, or a moleskine or even a plain Staples exercise book will do the trick…

One of the things I love about stationery are the pens or, more specifically, Fountain pens. I love the idea of the ink, the sound of the nib on the paper. The colours of ink available...I flirted with purple and turquoise and green.

My first fountain pen was bought by my Grandparents when I started Secondary school. It was a plain Parker fountain pen that could take ink cartridges or be used with an ink filler and a bottle of ink (not recommended for a clumsy 11 year old). You were expected to write in pen now not in pencil as you’re ‘grown up’ (times have changed they are encouraging children in BigR's school to use pens so they don’t have to press as hard to make a mark as you would with a pencil!). 

This pen saw me through my GCSEs and my A-Levels. Came to Uni with me and through my PhD. I had the nib and barrel replaced about 2 years ago when it had to be sent to the pen museum (oh the shame) for replacement parts (OK, it is 30 years old).

So when I finished my PhD, I was surprised but so pleased to be given a pen and pencil set by my PhD supervisor. This is the grown up Fountain pen – it signed the papers for our house, it signed my lectureship job contract, it’s signed hundreds of Christmas cards from us both not just me. 

Although on a daily basis I’m using whatever lidless ball point pen I happen to have at the bottom of my handbag, I love both my pens.
I‘m still using cartridges though - more than a bit clumsy at 41 too!

Joining in with:

Sarah at Mitenska
Leanne at Today’s Stuff
You’ll find their Precious Things there.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

I am. I try to be. I am not.

I am
  • Cold – all of a sudden it’s Autumn and Autumn with a vengeance. The sandals are gone. I need to get some new socks and dig out my boots.
  • Enjoying days out – We went to the zoo at the weekend. LittleR was so, so, so excited to see a real elephant!
  • Going on another cookery course next week. I've not really challenged myself with technique but chosen things we might like to eat again in the future. I’m still using the goulash recipe I learnt a while ago very regularly.
  • Making lists. Of things I need to do at work. Of things I need to remember to do at home. Of things to make. Of ideas for things for the blog. Of books to read and books I've read. Of stuff to cook. Suddenly realising there’s a name for all the info keeping – a commonplace book.
  • Reading lots. I've found my mojo again I think. And I've lots of new book ideas from Laura and the year in books.
  • In awe that people can actually read. BigR is doing phonics at school. She’s blazing a trail in phonics and I’m struggling to keep up – letter sounds, blending, and the songs…I keep using the wrong tune with the rhyme!! Learning to read is really hard – especially for the parents!!

I try to be
  • Patient. In all aspects of my life but especially with small children.  I’m finding it hard to moderate my voice and not let the frustration show. I know I’m not the only one attempting  to get shoes/uniform on, hair sorted toys off the middle of the stairs all in the 2 minutes before we leave the house. I have to remind myself that BigR is only five. And might need to be told more than once with extreme patience.
  • On top of things and I think I’m getting there. Term started, my admin support went off sick and my Mum had surgery. I was super busy at work and then really tired. The kind of tired that creeps up on you and you fall asleep with the light on and wake up at 1am and have to get up out of bed to turn stuff off. I've been absent from here and from commenting and I've missed it. Here's to normal (whatever that is) service being resumed shortly..
  •  Happy to be sat outside in the rain at a children’s party. Still it was better when the other children went home and I got a go. Thank goodness I’d been prescriptive about pelvic floor exercises!!

I am not
  • Going to tire of old rom coms. I love You've Got Mail. It’s very good ironing fodder. And full of great (and coffee related) quotes “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”
  • Able to remember how to join the initial circle in a granny square and then start the next row. I'll have to youtube it.
  • Able to stop buying new mugs. This one is particularly comfy in the hand.

I saw this great post from Jennifer and then this good one from Leanne and felt it was a good way to ease back in.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The year in books - October

This month I found my reading mojo thanks to the latest novel in the Shetland series, Thin Air, by Ann Cleeves. I love this series of books. I love to hear about the different parts of Shetland, her descriptions of the terrain and the light and of course, a good story wrapped within all that went down well.

My second book of the month was ‘Whatever you love’ by Louise Doughty. I really enjoyed this novel. The story centres on the relationships of Laura, after death of one of her children and how her past and present feature in her future. Doughty is a very accomplished writer. I loved Apple Tree Yard and this was an exceptionally story too. There was only a fleeting moment where I didn’t believe every part of her characterisations but it didn’t stop my enjoyment.

I’m finishing September and starting October with the first in the Cazalet chronicles (which I have already started). I’ve just downloaded Stephen Fry’s latest autobiography so hopefully the reading will continue.

Joining in with Laura.