Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Cooking colours

Because I am a new and enthusiastic user of Instagram and a blogger of many years, I take an awful lot of photos of random domestic moments; and as I scrolled through my photos last night, I realised that I have a wonderful record of my cooking at this time of year.

Like many people, the arrival of autumn gives me a renewed enthusiasm for cooking.  The cooler weather, a new series of The Great British Bake Off, unexpected seasonal treasures in my Abel and Cole box, and a generally energising back-to-school-and-University air of new timetables and new diaries, all contribute towards this for me.

Chicken and leek pie, with a cheesy breadcrumb topping

Soup for lunch
Spicy chicken and vegetable soup
Chocolate brownies - these made by Olivia

Potato, bacon and onion hotpot
Apricot flapjacks in progress
Making apricot flapjacks

The colours in these photos are autumnal too: the orange of my big Le Creuset bistro pan which I cook with at almost every meal, the wholesome browns of freshly baked bread, the yellow of eggs and squashes, the golden crust of a cheesy topping.  I even use orange and brown hundreds-and-thousands on my buns at this time of year.

Cinnamon and apple cake - adapted slightly from a Nigel Slater recipe

Using up the veg in the fridge to make a vegetable curry for supper - the night before my new Abel & Cole box arrives
Fritatta with cavalo nero, onions and chorizo
Orange buns
Autumnal iced buns
We've had the first mince-and-dumplings of the season, and the first slow-cooker stew is planned for later in the week.  I also think a particularly spectacular pie might be in order to celebrate the return of Strictly Come Dancing this weekend.  

As if autumn wasn't already my favourite time of the year, there's all this abundance of good food to share and enjoy too.   Good times indeed.

Bread rising and a giant cheese scone
A giant cheese scone - fresh out of the oven; and two loaves of bread waiting to go in

Friday, 13 September 2013

These are a few of my favourite things

In this final week before University begins again, I've managed to fit in an energetic end-of-summer visit to Kew Gardens, and a long anticipated trip to the British Museum to see the magnificent Life and Death in Pompeii and Hurculaneum exhibition.  Flowers, pumpkins, a tessalated glass roof, ancient artefacts and good friends - some of my very favourite things.

Squashes at Kew

Macro bee

Spiky colours at Kew

Favourite hangout

And now I am rubbing handcream into my hands, in anticipation of going back to University next week.  A nurse's hands are very dry and sore from all the handwashing and disinfectant alcohol handrub they have to endure, but mine have recovered somewhat over this long, lazy summer holiday.

Studying again

I've done what reading I can, found a new notebook and printed off my timetable.  I've been baking every day and have filled the freezer with muffins and loaves of bread in anticipation of days when there's nothing for breakfast and I haven't even got the time or energy to eat a slice of soda bread, never mind bake one.  I can't believe it was a whole year ago that I started my course.  I've loved and needed the summer off, but I'm so pleased to be going back now.  

Along with going back to University, comes commuting once again, and therefore the return of sock knitting, which I can stuff into my bag and do on the tube.  I am obsessed with sock knittingat the moment, and I have come to realise that it is a cyclical enthusiasm - as soon as it is cool enough to wear hand knitted socks again, I remember how wonderful they are and feel compelled to knit more.  Stay tuned for sock updates!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

10 things

  • I am in denial about the fact that Cam goes back to school tomorrow and Olivia on Thursday.  I don't want this summer holiday with them to end.  I'm used to hanging out with them; I miss them when they're at school.
Cam volunteering at Parkrun
Cam, volunteering at parkrun in Hackney last week
  • However, at the same time I am VERY excited to find myself in September.  I love September, and I love the autumn - it is definitely my favourite time of year.
  • My early morning runs in Epping Forest are heart-breakingly beautiful at the moment: mist, herons flying overhead, cobwebs covered with dew, the trees just on the turn from green to gold.  I find myself energised by both the run and the spectacular scenery.
Dawn in Epping Forest
Dawn in the forest

Dawn at Hollow Ponds
Epping Forest during a dawn run this morning
  • I have a smartphone for the first time ever, and my eyes have been opened to the wonders of Instagram (where I am thelistwriter) and this Relaxing Sounds of Nature app. I play the nature sounds in the middle of the night when I am awake and reading my Kindle, while I am cooking breakfast if Radio 4 gets too argumentative, and while I am folding washing or paying bills.  It makes everything just much nicer.
  • While I was setting up my phone I also reviewed all the podcasts I subscribe to.  I took off a few that I'd stopped listening to, and added on some new ones: Seven Ages of Science, 1913: The Year Before, UK Confidential and Inside the Ethics Committee.  If The Reunion was a podcast I'd have subscribed to that too, but it isn't so you have to remember to catch up on iPlayer.
  • I've had such a long holiday from University, that I've started to forget that I'm actually a student nurse.  When the children go back to school, my studying resumes too.  I'm easing myself back in by spending the day with a friend at the newly refubished Royal College of Nursing library and heritage centre, just off Oxford Street.  There will be some studying and much catching up about our summer holidays.
  • I need to squeeze in another blackberrying trip or two over the next few weeks.  The brambles in Epping Forest are still groaning with sweet fruit.
  •  The lawnmower has broken, my beloved Kindle is misbehaving and may be broken and I have just handed over what feels like my entire income for September to Clarks, M&S school uniform department and the local optician.  This the other downside of the end of the school summer holidays - the children are each a shoe size and a half bigger than they were in the summer term, and at least two clothing sizes bigger.  I'm not even exaggerating - they are gowing like weeds at the moment.
  • Graham went camping with his triathlon club at the weekend, and I realised that this has been the only camping trip by our family this summer.  How did I let that happen?
  • I have another baby niece on the way, and am stalking Ravelry looking for inspiration.  She will be my seventh niece/nephew, and the excitement does not diminish in the slightest with each new arrival - who will she be? what will she look like?  So exciting to have another little person in the family.
Cam's picture of my geraniums
Geraniums - instagrammed by Cam on my phone